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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

end of winter survival

Have the end of winter blues?  I find that the last few weeks of winter can be the hardest to thrive in.  One of my Milwaukee friends seems to handle this season better than most people I know.  Laurel is always going on some type of outdoor adventure and has a great attitude about winter.  I asked her to do a post, and she put together this list of four tips for surviving winter -- hope this brings you a bit of joy on this cold day.  And I hope you enjoy her amazing Wisconsin winter photos.  Those ice caves are breathtaking!!

For me, finding joy in all things means living in a state of openness to the world, it means welcoming in the many small beauties and absurdities of life. This state of permeability is seriously compromised by the long winter months, when everything seems to shut down. I've spent years trying to work out the perfect way to survive a midwestern winter with a sound mind, and here is what I've come up with.

  1. Move your body, every day.
    I'm not an athletic person, but I am an outdoors person. I'm lucky enough to have a job where I am constantly outside, and I have a 1 mile walk to work through a park. This makes it easy to notice the tiny changes of wind, sky, clouds, snow, and the other things that seem relatively unchanging all winter, and to find some peace and inspiration there. More than anything, however, the motion of walking helps keep me balanced. Too often we decide that its just too darn cold outside to do anything more than dash to the car – but really, it's not! You just have to make a habit of spending 10 or 15 minutes walking to understand that the discomfort of winter weather is both temporary and relatively dependent on one's clothes. I get a deep satisfaction from the sensation of my body heating itself up, feeling it pump warm blood into my freezing toes. It makes me feel vital and alive even in subzero temperatures.
  2. Challenge yourself!
    This gets back to my general philosophy of embracing the absurdities of life along with the pleasantries. Sometimes, instead of holing up inside when it is freezing cold, it is best to do something completely counter-intuitive. On one of the coldest days of the winter I went down to the shoreline of Lake Michigan, and it was beautiful! The waves were moving slowly and the water was actually steaming. On New Years Eve I ran out onto a frozen lake in the middle of Minneapolis, enjoying the spectacle of fireworks exploding in every direction. This winter I've gone sledding, snow-shoeing, and skiing, which has definitely challenged my athletic abilities and comfort level. It helps me to feel like I can explore, adventure, and see my home in a new place just by pushing past the cold.
  3. Treat yourself with a little tenderness!
    I've talked about the physical components of winter survival, but you can't forget that winter is a mind game, too. I tend to get stuck in repetitive thoughts, endlessly spinning the same mental wheels. To break that cycle I try to come up with a few creative projects, such as writing letters or reading really stimulating books. Anything to keep me from zoning out in front of TV shows. But I don't always stick to those projects, and my guilt about that becomes one of the winter thought-loops. This year I decided to be a little more forgiving. I decided that it is ok to not want to move. It's ok to not want to go outside. It's ok to curl up on the couch with a book/movie/cat/mug of tea/hot toddy. It's ok to give yourself a break!
  4. Hot Toddies!
    I just remembered this important winter survival tool. Combinations of hot water, tea, whiskey (or the liquor of your choice), lemon juice, ginger, and any other spices you want can bring a little comfort and relief to awful winter days. Most of the ingredients are really good for you, and they sure do warm you up quickly!  

Spring is right around the corner but until it officially arrives, follow Laurel's advice and treat yourself to a hot toddy and get yourself moving!  Thanks for sharing your tips Laurel!

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