It’s coming. I know it is. Spring will be here and I’ll feel better — but for now it is still February and I’ve got the winter blues.

I don’t think I’m alone, either. It seems every conversation I have these days is about the weather, or the stupid school closings, or the bug that’s going around, or how it’s hard to get out of bed, or how now it seems like wearing sweatpants to work seems totally reasonable because nothing else fits or feel good. Winter is beast, and I fall into its trap every year. I always somehow expect myself to be able to behave as normal, and then I get frustrated with myself because during these months parts of me seem to shut down without my consent.

This year, though, I’ve been trying to pay closer attention to what happens to me during this season (and what happens in my family, too- because when you’re consistently late for every single activity there’s something going on). I’ve been looking at what shuts me down, and what wakes me up and I think I’ve found a pretty simply set of things I can do to make things smoother. Here are my top five…

drop those leaves

My first step in coming to terms with winter is just accepting that this is a period of shutting down. The natural world all around me is taking the time to rest — and it does that so that it will be ready to grow again in just a few weeks. Just because we live in houses with electricity and heat doesn’t mean we get a pass on needing to take this time, too. For me, this has meant making a conscious choice to not worry about doing anything extra. Yes, I just found the perfect color to paint my kitchen. No, I have no intention on actually doing any painting until at least April. Instead, I’m going to go to bed at 7:30 and watch CNN while petting my dogs. When April comes, I’ll be rested and ready. Guilt free rest is a necessity of winter.

update the chore chart

This one is for the family. I think one problem that shows up in winter in families is that while the grown-ups need more rest, the kids keep on growing. The cycle most of us seem to fall into it that we set up all the systems and expectations for the kids in September when school starts — and then set up a new set of expectations for ourselves in January at the New Year. Um, maybe we need to change that. The kids have grown since the start of the school year. Perhaps it’s time to challenge them a bit more. They’re bored, they’re restless;  let’s put that to good use. Take good look at those kids. Maybe they are actually ready to start doing their own laundry now. Give them something that is a bit of a challenge and see if they can rise to it.

For me, this means teaching the kids to not just throw the dishes haphazardly into the dishwasher, but to really learn how to clean up the whole kitchen after dinner. This then allows me to go to bed and watch CNN while petting the dogs. The 10-year-old gets to feel like she’s the boss, while the 9-year-old delights in putting away the sharp knives. Brilliant, right?

Also,  I’m now officially moving the date of my own New Year’s resolutions from January 1 to March 20. First day of spring seems like a far better choice.

wrap yourself in other’s creativity

I feel decidedly less inspired and creative in the winter, but I’ve found that makes me all the more able to enjoy the creative work of others. While I’m slowing do, I have more space to enjoy actually listening to a piece of music, or reading a poem quietly line by line. I’ve been surprised by how much more time and enjoyment I have in indulging in the arts this season. I credit that in no small part to me allowing myself to rest and not feel pressured to produce as much myself. I read a big fat book for the first time in a few years. I’ve visited both the BMA and The Walters. Even when my son is practicing guitar, I stop what I’m doing and just listen. Giving in to winter has reminded me of what stirred my soul when I was 19 and it feels amazing to get to roll around in that feeling all over again.

small change, big pay-off

It seems like most of life these days is divided into big goals to be met and an endless to-do list of menial tasks. I think winter should be a time when I cut back on both of those and indulge in small things that bring me joy. I might not be willing to go to all the trouble of painting my kitchen right now, but I did buy two new house plants for my bedroom and painted my nails red. Easy, cheap, and totally rewarding. Winter does seem to drag on, in our puffy black coats and endless layers of boring clothing. A small antidote to this drudgery can be as simple as a new pair of stretchy gloves from the $1 Spot at Target, or rearranging the things on your desk at work. If you are feeling the need for a change of scenery, give yourself one in your everyday life.

when all else fails, kindness always helps

I’m not at my best in the winter, and traditionally this has been a point of embarrassment for me. This year, I’m trying to just embrace it, but I’m also trying to counter balance my grumpiness with acts of kindness. We are all chilled to the bone, all sick, all needing more sun, and so we can all offer solace to one another from time to time. I love the Little Lion Challenge that Heather offers us in January/February, because even though I know that it’s inspired by their family’s journey and the Little Lion Man’s birthday, the season could not be more appropriate or needing of the spirit of this project. I know the challenge officially ended on February 11, but I think it’s worth looking over the list of acts of kindness again, and try getting in a few bonus points before the weather turns.

Kindness can melt away some of those winter blues – – and that’s just what I need for these next few weeks!