3 Tips to Fend Off the Winter Woes

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Arctic winds blasted much of the Midwest last week. I saw an article that mentioned many cities faced temperatures lower than even Antarctica this time of year–yes you heard me right Antarctica! Along with the frigid weather, having a newborn in the household limits the amount of places we are able to travel. Cabin fever set in.

Cramped quarters, cold temps, and little to no change in daily routine make the perfect recipe for depression to set in. Every year the months of January, February, and March present this challenge. Sadly, I always seem to be surprised when the winter woes arrive. I yearn for warmer days and hope on the horizon. Below are three simple tips to help you fend off the winter woes.

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1. Nothing Lasts Forever: it is important to recognize that all things in life–good or bad– are temporary. If this winter appears extra long it is helpful to remind yourself that winter will NOT last forever.

2. Reflection: The average American is flooded with technology on a regular basis. It is rare for me to see a person without a smart phone or iPad in tote. Heck, I am actually writing this post on my own iPhone! The constant stream of screens and technology provide only increases during the winter when going outside to enjoy is not feasible.

A habit that I have re-started this winter is to make time for silent reflection. Cardinal Sarah wrote in The Power of Silence,

Without silence, God disappears in the noise. And this noise becomes all the more obsessive because God is absent. Unless the world rediscovers silence, it is lost. The earth then rushes into nothingness” (80).

Reading the Scriptures for a few minutes to begin the day greatly helped shift my mind off the dreariness of the cold toward the hope found in Christ. Silent prayer need not take up half of your day, but perhaps simply start with only five minutes of silent reflection.

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3. Exercise Your Muscles (and Patience): Along with taking perspective that winter will not last forever and taking a small amount of time for prayer, exercise is another key strategy to fight off depression in during the cold and dark months of the year. If your 2019 resolution was to get healthier, today is no better time to remind yourself of that goal! The great American founder and third president of the United States Thomas Jefferson spoke of exercise in this way, “Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.”  If the cold keep you from walking outside, think of ways you could walk around your home or apartment. Create a circuit between the rooms of your living space. Perhaps, travel to the grocery store and walk up and down the aisles–even the aisles of items not on your list.

In addition to winter being a time to remind yourself to exercise physically, it is equally important to strengthen yourself spiritually. Use the ‘annoyances’ of the season as chances to grow in patience. Allow yourself to pray for patience when bad driving pervades the streets or when your children drive you crazy because of being cramped up indoors. According to the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” Ask for the gift of patience from the Holy Spirit. See how the winter doldrums might be transformed into something beautiful!

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Absolute Zero: How I Experienced the Frostiness of Truth this Winter Week

It seemed like I was living in the Arctic Circle this past week. Chilling winds, snow, and ice permeated my city. I despise the cold. I mean really despise it. Perhaps it is because of the constant whipping icy winds that hit my face as I walk to work from the parking lot. Or maybe it is because my wife and I are limited in the options for taking the children during the week. Regardless, I despise the cold!

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Meteorologists forecast a -40 wind chill factor in our region. This news may halt our family’s Christmas travel plans. I am worried about the state of our water pipes, I do not want to come home from traveling to find busted pipes due to the insane cold. Winter seems hopeless at times. Yet, somehow amid this apparent gloom the Holy Spirit always finds a way to show me hope in on the horizon. Suddenly, I found myself singing [in my mind] the lyrics to the Christmas Hymn In the Bleak Midwinter. Here are the lyrics for those that wish to sing along with me too:

In the bleak mid-winter 
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, 
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, 
  Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
  Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him 
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter 
  A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, 
  Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim 
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk 
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels 
  Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel 
  Which adore.

Angels and archangels 
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim 
Thronged the air,
But only His mother1
 In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved 
  With a kiss.

What can I give Him, 
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
  I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him, 
  Give my heart.

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Upon listening to these words, I am provided hope. Honestly, I need hope. Absolute zero scientifically occurs at −273.15° Celsius. This week certainly felt like absolute zero both in temperature and my temperament. I recently took up a new position at work and I am struggle with change. Negative, cold thoughts permeated my mind. Things at home have not necessarily gone better.

I received St. Josemaria Escriva’s spiritual work The Way as a generous lagniappe from an anonymous person from my local church. The Spanish priest seems to have written specifically to me. Josemaria frankly told me, “Don’t be so touchy. The least thing offends you. People have to weigh their words to talk to you even about the most trivial matter. Don’t feel hurt if I tell you that you are…unbearable. Unless you change, you’ll never be of any use” (The Way, 43).

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If I heard these words without knowing that a canonized saint penned them, I would be disheartened and probably swiftly move onto the next pages of The Way. Instead, Josemaria’s quote stuck with me [similiar to how a child’s–or even a daring adult– tongue sticks to a frozen flagpole. That is the truth about truth, it remains with you. Like a seed planted, the Spanish priest’s words germinated in my soul this week.

My hope continued to grow after I performed a sacrificial deed for my spouse. My wife mentioned she wanted to take the children out to a local gymnastics facility to relieve their cabin fever. Driving her SUV to run errands, I noticed her air pressure was low on the back driver’s tire. I struggled about whether I wanted to fill up the tire during my shopping run or wait until the temperature rose above zero. I felt a strong debate occur in my mind about the pros and cons. Most of it went back to me being not wanting to endure the sub-zero temperature. Finally, I just admitted that my wife’s day would go better if she did not have to worry about filling up a tire–especially if it deflated more over night! This simple act helped me grow in holiness this winter week.

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Interestingly, certain lifeforms actually flourish in frigid climates. The moss Calliergon giganteum actually has the ability to grow in a frozen aquatic habitat–living in the bottom of cold tundra lakes. Wintertime is often viewed as a hindrance to growth, to the vivacity of life. Decreased sunshine and inability to go outside sometimes contributes to seasonal depression. Hopelessness dominated a lot of my December, however, the hope planted by the Holy Spirit through Josemaria’s wisdom and grown through my good deed for my wife helped overcome the despair I felt. Winter may not be good for the human body– at least my body– but oddly enough, maybe my frosty experience with truth was exactly what the Divine Physician prescribed for my soul.

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Thank you for sharing!