The Winter Slump: Ways to Cope and Snap Out of It
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The Winter Slump: Ways to Cope and Snap Out of It

lifestylePublished February 9, 2022

by Catherine Lessman

Early Child Development Specialist

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We have rung in the new year, set our intentions, and returned to our daily routines. Some of us may have discovered a newfound revitalization as we started our new year. For many, January is welcomed with new motivation and a positive outlook on what is ahead. However, some of us find that our new routines revert to old habits after those first few weeks of the new year. We may become bored, feel less motivated, and sometimes even feel that we have failed whatever expectations we set before the ball dropped. This is what I refer to as the “winter slump.” Do you relate? If so, you are not alone. Most people report a lack of motivation and self-doubt as they enter the mid-winter season.

When I was a new parent with another one on the way in early March of last year, I had grand plans before the baby arrived. I rang in the new year with a fresh approach to potty training, tackling our playroom organization, and spending quality time with my little man before he became a big brother. I also created new work goals and goals to spend quality time with my husband before our lives became a bit busier. That was my outlook on January 1st.

By Valentine’s Day, I was exhausted. Our playroom had never been messier. I was overwhelmed with the health and safety of our family. Quality time with my husband always ended with me asleep on the couch before any movie even got past the opening credits. I was overwhelmed, and I felt like I had failed. I failed myself, my son, my husband, and our family. But, I realized that it was unfair to my family and me to have that type of view. So, I worked very hard to ensure that the “winter slump” didn’t consume our winter months. Now, I make a concerted effort not to repeat the same behavior annually.

How to Cope With the Winter Slump

1. Make Short Term Goals

One of the biggest obstacles in any new year is that those resolutions or goals that we set for ourselves can be large and drawn out. Instead, I started to make more short-term goals that were attainable and achievable in a week or two. By doing so, I could truly focus on them and give them the attention they deserved.

Short-term goals are much more attainable. As such, they give us the confidence to set another and achieve it, time and time again. Setting these goals does not mean that you will not accomplish big things. It just means you will have small, more frequent victories throughout the year. This keeps you from falling into a rut of not being or feeling successful.

2. Establish Routines

Most parents have discovered that routines are everything. We live our days on routines to keep us sane in parenthood. I used to think I needed to change up a routine not to feel bored or monotonous. The thing is that if it is working, do not try to fix it!

As parents, we thrive on routine, and it also helps our children know boundaries and what is expected. Sure, doing the same thing day in and day out can feel dull, but that doesn’t mean we have to change the routine. Instead, consider changing how you conduct a task within your day. For instance, your nighttime routine is cooking dinner, eating, and bedtime. Changing the order of this routine doesn’t make sense. But you can spice things up a bit!

Start a weekly theme night to break up the week and get the family excited. Our family makes pizza every Friday. It’s a great way to give us something to look forward to at the end of the week. Also, we get to experiment with different foods with our toddler and create a family bonding experience all in one. It certainly makes for a fun night to look forward to weekly and was still very much part of our nightly routine.

3. Mitigate Overwhelm

Overwhelm can lead many of us to shut down and feel less motivated. For me, the daily chore of laundry became more overwhelming than I felt like I could handle. I knew that ignoring the obstacle or pushing through could make matters worse. So instead, I found a way to organize it into more manageable pieces. This helped my anxiety and allowed me to enjoy achieving success.

I came up with “Towel Thursday” (you will thank me later for this tip). To combat my overwhelm, I took one day and assigned it to one aspect of the laundry. “Towel Thursday” was put in place so that I knew it was time to wash all the towels every Thursday. Yes, simple, but it made me feel more in control, more organized, and made sure that I washed the towels weekly. Laundry became a more manageable task for me instead of one that sat on my to-do list and weighed heavily on my mind daily.

4. Make Self-Care a Priority

It is not a coincidence that after “the most wonderful time of the year” comes the winter slump. Pizza Friday and “Towel Thursday” may not be exciting changes, but planning something to truly look forward to will also make everyone more motivated, excited and keep our spirits high.

But, when you are making minor adjustments to your routine or making an overwhelming task more manageable, do not forget to plan some special times for yourself and your family. These can be a special family movie night, a self-care day for just you, or a day trip. Making memories, creating traditions, and working toward a rewarding goal are all things that will keep us rising above that mid-year slump.

5. Give Yourself Grace

Parenthood is hard in any season of life. The stress and burnout rate of parents is higher than ever. Before we feel bad for our lack of motivation and patience, we need to grant ourselves some grace. We tend to set expectations for ourselves and our family in the new year that sometimes are not achievable. We have a lot going on as parents, and to hold us to a standard, well, it can be simply unfair. Don’t be hard on yourself if you find that you set your expectations just a little too high. Readjust your goals and give yourself a lot of grace. Parenting is hard! Don’t make it unnecessarily harder on yourself.

When you find yourself feeling like those new year’s resolutions have faded or that your day is just the same thing over and over again, remember these tips. You are not alone in feeling this winter slump, and tomorrow is a new day! Treat it as such. It may not say January 1st on the calendar, but who’s to say your “new year” can not start when you are ready!

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