Mentally Surviving Winter

It might seem a little early to start talking about this already. Still, with the colder months settling on us, it’s a great time to think about mentally surviving winter.

Minnesota is known for its fierce winters. I’m not one of those people who think winter is the greatest season. I enjoy certain aspects of it, but by March I am always eager for it to be done.

Here in the north, it isn’t unusual for us to get snow in mid October and not have spring start showing up until mid to late April.

Why am I Mentally Preparing for Winter?

Two years ago, winter almost broke me for the first time in my life.

My husband and I were newly married and still learning how to live with each other. It was the first year in our new house and on our farm. This came with the challenges of frozen septic lines, water leaks, and hauling gallons upon gallons of water to our animals each day. Halfway through the season I also became pregnant. Morning sickness lasted all day for seventeen weeks.

On top of all that, we had one of the absolute roughest winters in terms of weather. Snow came October 12th and didn’t leave until early May. We had weeks, WEEKS at a time of daily highs around -10, with lows that year reaching -69 with wind chill.

It was horrible.

After that winter, I knew that I needed to be better prepared moving forward to survive winters both mentally and emotionally.

How to Mentally Survive Winter

Each fall I start to prepare myself for the long months ahead. Here are my top ways of making it through.

1. Adjust Your Concept of Seasons

A lot of us still think about the seasons based on our school year. How could we not after a decade of summers ending the beginning of September?

In fact, the summer ends on September 21st with the solstice. That mental adjustment alone can make a big difference. Rather than thinking winter starts sometime in November, I now think that it starts with the winter solstice on December 21st. Anything before that is still fall.

So now, winter lasts from late December until late March. Hopefully anyway, weather permitting.

2. Get some Green in your Life

Having green, living things surround you during the quiet months can be a breath of life. Not only do houseplants provide a vibrant green to help energize and uplift your spirits, they also provide fresh oxygen in your cooped up house.

My goal last winter was to have a houseplant in every room where one could survive. I just about met that goal. Truly, it helped immensely.

Plants aren’t wildly expensive, but a great way to add to your houseplant collection is to get cuttings from a friend.

Just snip off a branch or some leaves. Then mix about an ounce of water with a teaspoon of honey. Dip the cutting in the water, then roll it in cinnamon. Plant it, water it, and away you go!

jade plants rough and tumble farmhouse
This sweet Jade came from cuttings of my mom’s plant.

3. Learn Something New

Winter is an excellent time to learn a new skill or hobby. With the wonders of YouTube and affordable online courses in just about anything, pick out something you’ve always wanted to learn and get to it!

Last year I learned to crochet. This winter I will be working on my prenatal yoga teacher certification. A good friend of mine is taking an online hiking course.

Having a new practice or hobby gives you something to look forward to and often times will give you a tangible result at the end. When spring arrives you might have drafted plans for how to build a chicken coop, made a chunky knit sweater, or a perfected pie crust.

Heck you can get some house plants and become an expert in their care!

learn to crochet rough and tumble farmhouse
My first hat ever. Yes it turned out too small for Jane to wear this year but I’m still proud of it!

4. Set Seasonal Goals

I tend to think of the year in two seasons. Gardening season, and not gardening season.

At the beginning of each, I’ll set several goals for myself in various areas. I might categorize the areas as home, farm, family, self.

This winter for “Self”, I am going to finally shed the last of my pregnancy weight. I am going to get my prenatal yoga teacher certification, and I am going to master three soap making recipes.

Under “Home”, I want to rip out the carpet in our hallway and replace it with new flooring. I plan to paint the back of our built in book shelves.

The goals don’t have to be huge, and they should be something you feel driven to do. Not just a chore you are dreading.

5. Find a New Series or Revisit an Old One

God bless you, Downton Abbey. I give a lot of credit to making it through the latter part of that rough winter to completely rewatching that series.

Finding a mental escape through a show or a book series can be therapeutic.

This winter I’d like to wrap up a young adult book series I started when I was a children’s librarian called The Ranger’s Apprentice. Don’t feel like you need to read something heavy or even something for adults. Revisiting a series you loved growing up or reading a series with your children can be engaging and comforting.

books for winter rough and tumble farmhouse
Some of my favorites reads.

6. Plan a Trip

Depending on where the world stands in terms of a pandemic, consider planning a trip! Maybe it is a once a month trip to a local small town you’ve never visited.

Or maybe you feel comfortable planning a longer weekend getaway.

Spend time researching your destination, plan an interesting driving route, organize your packing list! Get lost in the romance of going somewhere new and take joy not just in the journey of getting there, but the journey of getting ready to go!

Ben, Jane, and I took a day trip to a neighboring town and played tourist!

7. Get Physical, Physical!

I know you’ve heard it a thousand times, but physical activity can go a long way in mentally surviving winter. Source.

If you have the means (and feel safe) you can join a local gym or add exercise equipment to your home.

Again, YouTube is an amazing resource! There are hundreds of completely free workouts online that don’t require any sort of equipment.

FitOn is an app that I really enjoy that is also completely free.

Bonus points if you get outside for your activity. Fresh air and sunshine can do you a lot of good. Especially to soak in some vitamin D!

yoga mat rough and tumble farmhouse
Believe it or not that is my yoga block’s best angle, thanks to Sunny.

8. Ask for Help When You Need It

After all is said and done, mental and emotional health is no small thing. These strategies helped me stay healthy last winter, and I hope they will do the same for you.

Winter can be rough, and this one might be especially so as we are already dealing with a feeling of confinement and stir craziness from months of a pandemic.

If you are struggling with mentally surviving winter and find that you are feeling depressed, sad, overwhelmed, and just plain in a slump for an extended period of time, please feel empowered to reach out to a friend or possibly medical professional for help. It’s not your fault, and it isn’t a struggle you have to manage alone. It might be something as simple as your body being deficient in some key vitamins, or just having someone to talk to might help immensely.

Do you have any great tips for mentally surviving winter? Please comment below!

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ways to mentally survive winter rough and tumble farmhouse

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  1. I love that I saw a Louise Erdrich book in your pile. I just read her latest- Night Watchman & I’m in love w/her story telling!
    Thanks for the seasonal coping ideas….:)
    Jackie šŸƒ

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