Short days: how do you deal?
November 7, 2007 5:53 AM   Subscribe

It's getting colder and darker by the day. Give me your strategies for coping with winter!

Since we're off Daylight Savings Time, it's starting to get dark at 4:30 in the afternoon, and this is making me sad and unproductive. I work mostly at home, and am having a harder and harder time motivating myself as the late afternoon drags on and on and on. What are some successful strategies for dealing with this? I'd love to figure out a way to be affected by it less--please share your successful strategies.
posted by agent99 to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Take a break, need it or not, at 1:30 or 2:00. Siesta or snack outside, look at the light in the sky, look at something pretty.

You might need more social contact (I know I do) - maybe call a friend at this time, or go out.

Go out to lunch occasionally.

I should take my own advice, as I work at home, too. I think it's probably staying light a little later here (I'm in NC / USA), but yeah, it's a little depressing. At least I'm not stuck in an office, coming outside to "Surprise Dark".
posted by amtho at 5:59 AM on November 7, 2007

Start your holiday cards, if you do holidays.

Start a project you can chip away at all winter. I'm refurbishing a quilt from my great-grandmother that somehow was passed along to me. And by "refurbishing", I mean sewing everything in my scrap bag onto it while I watch horror movies and drink port wine.

Invite people over to play card games.

Force yourself to bundle up and go out on walks. Explore your space in its new condition, be inspired-- or just be driven back indoors once you remember something you'd rather be doing instead.

Make mix cds for people. Make me one!

Find something you'd like to learn how to cook, like a specialty cake. Make it once a week until you've mastered it, start giving it away to people as gifts when you grow sick of eating it.

Make a reading list for the winter, and also make a list of places outside of your home that you can go read and people-watch in. Keep them side by side on your fridge.

Buy brighter light bulbs for your house. Buy better booze for your house.

Install a chin-up bar.

Start checking out every single yoga or workout dvd at your public library one at a time, no matter how cheesy and ridiculous. Try them all. Even better, do this with a buddy, and guaranteed laughs (or miraculous finds) will ensue.
posted by hermitosis at 6:04 AM on November 7, 2007 [6 favorites]

I'm dealing the the same thing, and find that by 3:30 or 4:00 I am struggling to keep my eyes open.

What I've tried to do is take an hour and get up and MOVE - do the dishes, tackle some of the slightly more physical aspects of my work, take a walk, take a shower, start getting things ready for dinner.

Then I sit down and work for another hour or two until it's almost time for supper.

Of course the insanely high cost of heating oil/kerosene helps - working in a 60 degree house certainly keeps me alert (if slightly miserable).
posted by suki at 6:05 AM on November 7, 2007

I'm only three days into my strategy, but it's working so far... I'm getting up really early, so I get exposure to lots of sun. And if that "day's over, give up!" feeling clicks in at 4:30 or 5, I've actually already had a productive day by that point. What's been happening so far is that I am having really productive days, so as it gets dark, my momentum continues. But I'm definitely curious if it's a novelty effect that will wear off in a few weeks.
posted by xo at 6:25 AM on November 7, 2007

Try a full spectrum light, it helps a lot of people.
posted by daravida at 6:33 AM on November 7, 2007

Make a big chicken soup. Take a break from work around 2 or 3, fry chicken breasts in a big pot, cut up some stuff like celery root, parsly root, turnips, carrots, onions, garlic, throw them in the pot and fry them with the chicken, and then dump in some water and a bay leaf and go back to work for a few hours. Then around 5, go look at the soup. Take the chicken out and let it cool. Cut up some greens, fry them in a pan with butter, dump the whole thing in the pot. Cut the chicken meat away from the bone and skin and dump it in the pot. Keep the bones and skin in the freezer, you can use them to make broth next week. Leave the soup to cook some more and go back to work for an hour or two. At 7 you can stop work because the soup is done. All you have to do is add salt, pepper, maybe thyme, rosemary, similar stuff. Maybe some rice or potatoes.

Or: work from 8-2. Go to the gym, work out for a half-hour, go in the sauna. Get back around 3:30 and work until 5. That's almost 8 hours of work. It's like the opposite of a siesta.
posted by creasy boy at 6:37 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I grew up in the UK, where the winters are very dark, and the only thing that stopped me slashing my wrists come February was a full spectrum light bulb. It needs to be the real deal, a greater wattage won't do it. Also get outside during your lunch hour and at weekends - exercise outdoors too.
posted by poissonrouge at 6:39 AM on November 7, 2007

I find that if I can focus on something I like about winter, it helps distract me from the depressing darkness. So instead of getting down about suddenly having to walk home from work in the dark, I think about how much I love the smell of the cold air and how many more stars I can see on a crisp, cool night.

Take walks while it's still light out, enjoy the sunlight, maybe go for a run, to get your energy back up for the end of the day.
posted by bassjump at 6:56 AM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

Vitamin D3 supplements can be very helpful. It's the vitamin your body forms in response to sunlight, so unsurprisingly many people get a slight deficiency of it in the winter. I find that supplements help my mood a bit. YMMV, of course, but it couldn't hurt.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:14 AM on November 7, 2007

Spend some time outside in the afternoon, getting sunlight and exercise and then you'll probably have enough energy to work for a while longer once the sun goes down. If you can't get out during the afternoon, at least get some exercise in the evening.
Make sure you are awake before the sun comes up, so that you get the most daytime possible.
posted by ssg at 7:22 AM on November 7, 2007

I get that here, too; I light lots of candles on dark evenings. The warm light is cheerier, I find. Also, keeping busy by taking evening classes after work keeps my mind active; sitting in front of the TV is a sure way to lose energy. A brisk walk outside helps too, if it's less than an icy downpour.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 7:28 AM on November 7, 2007

Houseplants and a grow light. It's good to have some green around. Sit and read/work near them.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:32 AM on November 7, 2007

Cosify. Cardigans and hot chocolate. Slippers too.
posted by popcassady at 7:37 AM on November 7, 2007

Light Therapy.
posted by HotPatatta at 7:49 AM on November 7, 2007

Same thing happens to me. Going to the gym helps, but for me it's better to go before it gets dark. Soup and fuzzy hats help too.

I find naps counter-productive in the winter, and this is coming from a champion napper.

And sometimes just saying in my head, "this too shall pass" helps.
posted by Evangeline at 7:58 AM on November 7, 2007

I agree with waking and beginning your day earlier (unless of course you have kids to get ready then that time is already spent) to make the most of daylight hrs. You may also want to move you desk near a window to get whatever sun you can.
posted by doorsfan at 8:03 AM on November 7, 2007

Cooking and then eating very hearty meals, like stews, makes me look forward to the cold weather and darker days. I got a slow cooker and made a roast in it this weekend. It was delicious!

This probably won't help during the workday but another fun thing in the cold weather I do is to invite friends over for game nights. It's dark outside, sure, but you can put on a funny movie and everyone can drink cocoa or hot toddies while playing a board game. It always feels very cozy and warm to me.
posted by sutel at 8:10 AM on November 7, 2007

Daylight bulbs, more lights on around you, go for walks in the sun, and remind yourself that in just 6 weeks the days will start to get longer again.

As a longer term solution, you could move farther south.
posted by yohko at 8:32 AM on November 7, 2007

Work on a plan to celebrate the winter solstice (December 22), the day when daylight starts getting longer again. The wikipedia page has tons of examples of how traditional cultures mark the occasion, if you need ideas. My local Unitarian church does a service each year, including 10 minutes of sitting quietly in complete darkness followed by lighting candles and then eventually turning all the lights on and singing very very happy songs. It's incredible. The planning gives you something fun to do on long winter evenings, and taking time to actively admit that the dark sucks (and then being actively thankful for the return of the light) feels amazing. It sounds kind of new-agey now that I'm reading what I've written, but it's doesn't have to be. Anticipation of this event is what keeps me going through the dark months. It's even better if you involve friends.

Also, if you're feeling silly: Turn the heat up, throw on a swimsuit, and lay on a beach towel on the floor while you watch Blue Hawaii and sip fruity drinks with friends.
posted by vytae at 9:07 AM on November 7, 2007

Get outside in the middle of the day. Fresh air and sunshine really help. If you don't have a dog to walk, see if there's a neighbor who'd like a dogwalker; it really helps me get outside when I have company. Getting outside regularly in winter really helps me acclimate, and has made winter much more bearable.

Vary the lights & temp at home. Bright indoor light all the time starts to feel awful to me, but occasionally turning on the overhead light, increasing the heat, and playing loud music to dance around to gives me a boost.

Save up for a vacation & sign up for a travel email that will search for a cheap fare to someplace sunny. Then take a cheap 4 day trip to someplace warm & sunny. Having that to anticipate helps.
posted by theora55 at 9:08 AM on November 7, 2007

If you work at home, are you alone during the day? Do you know anyone who is also working from home/at home? Is your or their work movable, ie could you work from the same place? The company would likely do you good.

And to ditto others, from my own experience:

* Lots of light. Daylight, supplemented with a light box.
* Exercise.
* Make yourself get up early and go for a walk/cycle, to get your circulation going.
* Organise social things. Make specific plans. If you live on your own, ask friends to come over and cook dinner/play board/card games with you.
posted by Zarkonnen at 1:03 PM on November 7, 2007

Nthing the 'get outside' strategy. I love soaking up whatever rays I can find on even the coldest days. It really feels great to have the sun on your face in cold weather, and even 5 minutes of direct sunlight makes a difference in the way I feel.
posted by mediareport at 7:53 PM on November 7, 2007

I agree with everyone who says go outside. As a rule I go for a walk at lunchtime.
posted by robcorr at 10:39 PM on November 7, 2007

I try to go to work earlier so I can leave at 4:30 or 5. It makes a huge difference to get out while it's still light out.
posted by salvia at 11:09 PM on November 7, 2007

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