Winter is kind of scary, especially on this ungodly, windy, hella random rock in the middle of the ocean. Even moreso when even the sun hides its sweet face for months at a time. So after hearing horror stories about three-hour days, blizzards and seasonal depression, we (two interns fond of co-writing things and referring to ourselves in the third person) are all-out terrified of the coming months.
December is upon us, and that means we’re fast approaching the shortest day of the year and the start of winter proper. The first snow has fallen, the days have grown incredibly short (wild stuff, these late sunrises and early sunsets). If all that wasn’t terrifying enough, the holidays are gaining on us, and quickly.
All is not lost, though. We, your trusty Interns, are down in the trenches with you. We can help each other through this long December. In that spirit, we sat down and collected our main survival tips.
Among the most notable bits of knowledge we gleaned researching SAD while preparing for our descent into darkness was this: people need daylight in order to feel good. This is good to bear in mind at all times. As bright mornings become a thing of the past, it’s important to step outside during the day in order to maintain a strong Vitamin D game (and, you know, a regulated internal clock).
Even if outside is all snowy and wet, try to spend at least fifteen minutes there. If you’re at work, just say you need to “skreppa aðeins,” stretch your legs and enjoy the freezing cold winds. If it’s your day off (or you don’t have an office to go to), maybe head to a coffeehouse. Be among people. Treat yourself to some hot chocolate. Say “yes” when they ask if you’d like some carrot cake. Carrot cake is delicious.
Being outside, and exposed to what passes for daylight on this godforsaken isle, helps your body regulate melatonin levels. The snow, especially, makes the world seem brighter than it actually is, which totally hoodwinks your body into thinking it’s experiencing actual daytime. This in turn will lead your easily-deceived body to start regulating the production of melatonin, which then makes you feel way better. Or something along those lines. We’re not doctors, don’t sue us.
Speaking of brightness and joy: the holidays are here. Whether or not you celebrate them, try to absorb as much of the festive mood as you can. The days leading up to the end of December are characterised by an increase in (artificial) light. As we’ve discussed before, light is important.
Multicoloured fairy lights are our personal favourites; a little bit tacky, but so cosy and “hugguleg.” Then there’s candles everywhere, the Northern Lights up above (such light, much colour, wow!), decorations along the streets, etc. On the whole, December (despite having the shortest days) is the brightest winter month. Enjoy it while you can, and cling to those memories as we tumble into January.
However, December can be a stressful time for those who celebrate the holidays with relatives. There are presents to be bought, gifts to be received and a slew of mandatory social activities with people you may or may not like. On the whole there’s a lot going on.
If you’re the gift-giving kind, don’t sweat it too much. This sounds incredibly obvious, but it needs to be said: every year, we feel pressured to dole out fancy, expensive gifts. Some years, we completely lose track of the whole point of exchanging presents: that is, making the recipient happy. Most times, you can make a friend or family member happy simply by being healthy.
This means it’s okay to go cheap. Buy something from Tiger, maybe. We, for one, would be thrilled to get a penguin lunch box for the holidays. Or, if you’re aching to do something during this hellish winter, you could knit something in the traditional Icelandic fashion. Creating your own gifts is a legitimately good way to be productive, which is, in and of itself, an excellent way to combat the winter blues.
To go a bit further, there’s no need to go all-out if you’re celebrating with loved ones. Fancy meals are nice, but you should never feel roped into putting on something too fancy. Cooking for a lot of people (or at all, if you’re like us) is hard work, let alone cooking something intricate. There’s always easy, tasty, and healthy recipes you can cook/bake/throw together and hope they work.
The holidays are great, but not when they’re at the expense of your welfare. Remember, though our advice may seem silly, we are taking winter’s effect on well-being seriously. Always communicate. Never be afraid to ask for help—if you’re at a point where you think you should seek help, do it.
Now, go forth and put the happy in happy holidays.
This article is part of a series ‘Wintern Diaries’. You can read the the first installment, ‘Wintern Diaries #1: SADwatch’ here.
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