Coping with the Wintertime Blahs

February 12, 2024
Decorative image: A woman sitting on the windowsill with a cup of tea in winter and looking out the panoramic window

Wintertime in northern Michigan can be both beautiful and brutal. As a kid growing up in Petoskey, I looked forward to the first snowfall of the season, and I took advantage of all that the winter season had to offer. My brother and I would frequent the Petoskey Winter Sports Park to sled and ski. I would spend hours with my friends building snow forts and snowmen or having snowball fights. On the weekends, I would go to Nubs Nob and ski all day long.

The older I get I find that I look forward to winter less and less. In fact, I find myself dreading its imminent arrival more with each passing year. Instead of finding joy in the beauty of the season, I gripe about road conditions and the wind chill. Instead of skiing, I am spending hours shoveling and cleaning off my car with numb fingers and toes as I long for the warm summer days to return. As a matter of fact, right now as I am struggling to come up with the words to write this blog on a cold February evening, I find myself sleepy, overwhelmed, and longing for the first signs of spring. 

Once you get to be a certain age, if you are not an avid skier (or even a halfhearted skier) wintertime can be very long and overwhelming in northern Michigan. It is easy to find yourself getting more easily frustrated, tired, bored, and sad. Your body and mind crave the sunshine that is all too elusive during these long winter months, and you find yourself feeling anxious and full of inexplicable melancholy. Many of us, at this point in the year, find ourselves affected by what can be referred to as the winter blahs.

Yes, winter is in full force in Petoskey, and we need to figure out how we are going to make it until May. 

Here are some tips that I offer on how to get through the winter as you deal with the winter blahs.

  1. Stay active. Even though the last thing we feel like doing is getting outside when the temperatures plummet, it is good for our physical and mental health to move around. Bundle up and take a hike by a lake. Take a walk around the block. Little Traverse Conservancy holds numerous events throughout the winter, most of which are free of charge. Try snowshoeing. Don’t own or want to purchase your own snowshoes? Bearcub Outfitters in downtown Petoskey has you covered. They have several pairs that you can rent.
  2. Take up a new hobby or activity. Learn to crochet, play the piano, or how to play bridge. Take an art class. Join a pool, bowling, or dart league. Compete in euchre tournaments. The Petoskey District Library and Crooked Tree Arts Center are both great resources for classes and activities to keep your mind and body busy.
  3. Volunteer your time. The Petoskey region is home to numerous nonprofit organizations that are helping the community in various ways, and all of them would appreciate your help in reaching their goals. Find one that aligns with that which you believe, and volunteer your time and talents.
  4. Light a candle or immerse yourself in aromatherapy. Research has proven that certain scents can stimulate the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins in your brain which contribute to feelings of relaxation and happiness. (I am picky about my scents, so when I find a candle that I love, I buy several of them and burn them throughout the winter months).
  5. Listen to music. Researchers have spent countless hours studying the connection between the brain and music. It has been proven that music can not only help with memory and recall, but that it can also improve your mood, reduce physical pain, and decrease anxiety and symptoms of depression.
  6. Tune out for a bit. Take breaks from the news, social media, and mindless scrolling. There is nothing wrong with spending some time on your phone when you need a distraction, but don’t make that your only means of coping this winter.
  7. Most of all, stay in the moment and try to spend time daily doing something that brings you joy. This can be hard in the winter but also when it is the most critical. Read a book or put together a puzzle. Meet a friend for coffee. For me, I spend lots of time watching college basketball and playing pool.

A final piece of advice: wintertime in northern Michigan tends to drag on, and it is normal to feel bored, lethargic, and sad at times during the cold winter months. However, if these feelings of overwhelm turn into feelings of hopelessness, it is best to speak to a doctor.

Hold tight my fellow northern Michiganders, spring will be here before we know it.