I’ve never lived somewhere where the winters were this long (well in my memory, I’m sure when my parents lived in Steinbach, Manitoba, where I was born, the winters were this long). So many places are starting to see signs of spring, people had their legs out in New York on Saturday! South Carolina and California are basically in summer already. For many of these places it’s a false spring, New York had snow today, but up here it is still super cold, there is an insane amount of snow, and it’s not going anywhere for at least a month.
So to get through the last few long months of winter, stepping up my self-care is going to be crucial. Especially as my region of Ontario still has really high COVID numbers and devastating outbreaks in the communities my work serves.
Making time for meals
This might seem obvious, but not working through all my meals is something I have to remind myself not to do every day, or every work day. Waking up early enough to make a proper breakfast and eat it before I sit down at my computer.
Stopping work and actually taking my lunch, and, this may be controversial, not meal prepping lunch. One way I have found to make myself take a lunch is to prep ingredients, not meals. Then I can easily make a meal at lunch time, but it takes more time than just popping something in the microwave or tipping a salad into a bowl. It forces me to stop, think about other things, and rest my brain for a bit.
And then actually cooking dinner, and that can be anything from making a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (or as the Canadians call it, “Kraft Dinner”) to trying an elaborate new recipe.
I have also found that prioritizing meals, making food that is whole and satisfying, and includes protein and carbs, not just vegetables, is helping to curb my sugar cravings and reduce how often I want to binge eat. Which isn’t why I wanted to start prioritizing meals, but is a fun side effect.
Using my lunch break
This isn’t unique to my winter routine, I’ve done this since I started working from home last March. I always make sure to take my full lunch break, and eat lunch as I said above, but I also using it to do some chores or other tasks. During my lunch break I make sure that I clean out the cat’s litterbox, do my dishes, and take out the trash. Then on Tuesdays I make sure I bring my garbage and recycling bins back in from the curb, and on Fridays I go to the post office and pick up my mail from my P.O. Box and get my weekly coffee out from the local coffee shop.
Also if I need to take photos for here I now take them on my lunch because there hasn’t been light in the evening, although that is starting to change!
Oh and I try to shovel and brush my car off on lunch, it’s much less depressing to do it in the daytime than in the dark.
Doing chores and little tasks on my lunch really frees up my evening for exercise and relaxing. I still have some things to do in the evening, but a lot less than I did when I was working in the clinic, when I had to do all my chores after work or on my days off.
Have a routine for chores and tasks
This kind of builds off how I use my lunch breaks, but I follow a routine for cleaning. Like I said above, on lunch I do my breakfast and lunch dishes, clean out the litterbox, take care of my trash and recycling, get my mail. But obviously those are not all the chores that go into maintaining a place when you live alone. So I also have a couple evening chores and then a weekend routine.
So after work every evening I vacuum, if you don’t have a pet, you might not need to vacuum every day. And I probably don’t have to vacuum every single day, but if I am on the floor doing my workouts I get so grossed out by seeing the little bits of litter and the scatterings of cat hair across the floor, it’s really distracting. So I vacuum every day. It also helps me stick to my workout routine – I’ve been doing some reading on habit stacking, I think this falls into that category.
There was a time on TikTok when videos of people with roommates were talking about the “opening” and “closing” roommates, which was amusing, as a former server, and sobering when I realized I had all the shifts. So I don’t apply this to the whole day, but I do apply the server mindset to “closing the kitchen”, so after I cook dinner I initiate the closing shift routine. I put leftovers into containers, and leave them out to cool to room temperature, I rinse my dishes and stack them by the sink. I tidy up the kitchen table (which is a huge dumping ground for me), and then I do my dishes. Most of the time I just wash them and then leave them to drip dry overnight. I wipe down the countertops and I put any food on the counters into it’s appropriate spot. Also, this is the real server moment, I refill my salt and pepper if they need it (I do love not doing this every night lol). And then the kitchen is closed for the day. I don’t love cleaning the kitchen every night, but it is super nice to wake up every morning to a clean kitchen.
Then I also have weekly tasks, I scrub the bathroom once a week, starting by cleaning the shower while I take my Saturday morning shower (you’re going to get wet when you clean the shower, so I do it when I’m already getting wet), and then scrub my sink and the outside of my toilet after I’m out of the shower, then I get dressed and do the inside of the toilet. I also do a big wipe down of the kitchen every Saturday morning. Taking everything off the counter tops, cleaning the microwave, and evaluate what’s in my fridge and meal plan based off what ingredients need to be used up.
Having routines for these tasks mean I have days off, typically Sundays, and that my space is always clean and tidy, which is essential for keeping me focused on my work and my mind clear.
Okay, so my exercise routine is not intense, exciting, or particularly life-changing. But I do think it is keeping me in decent shape and improving my cardiovascular health. I have a little stationary bike, it’s not a Peloton or anything even remotely like that. It was like $150 from Wal-Mart. it has a resistance dial, and a teeny little screen that cycles through time, distance, odometer, calories, etc. I do 30-45 minutes four to five days a week. Typically Monday to Thursday and then a weekend day, and then I generally go for a walk. I also sometime do an Aubre Winters class, I’m not currently subscribed to her platform (it’s a bit pricey), but she occasionally does free Saturday classes and has a ton of old classes on her IGTV, on a weekend day or go for a long walk. Less so lately because it’s been so cold and I don’t own snowshoes and there is so much snow.
But it is consistent, and I don’t feel guilty about not working out anymore, because even though it’s not much, it is something and it is a routine.
Okay, I feel like this where we get into the classic, social media version of self-care. But it’s winter and my skin is dry and itchy if I don’t do a good job of taking care of it. So thick, creamy cleansers, thick moisturizing face and body creams are a crucial part of my routine at the moment. In particular, the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream and the LaRoche-Posay Triple Repair Moisturizing Cream, oh and Aquaphor of course.
Friday night relaxation and solitude
Okay, please don’t judge me, but I like to spend my Friday nights alone. I get a frozen pizza and a dessert and have that for dinner and do my laundry and either read or watch TV until I’m ready for bed. And I don’t put any pressure on myself to stay up late or go to bed early, I just go to bed whenever I’m falling asleep.
This isn’t a particularly sexy or Instagram-worthy list of self-care tips, but it’s what has actually worked to keep me sane and somewhat healthy this winter. Self-care has become green juices and face masks on social media, but I think it’s the routines that make up our lives that become our true self-care.
How do you cope with long winters?