by Anita DiGregory

“The Mommy Survival Guide for the Month of February”

Okay, so it is no secret that February is definitely not my favorite month of the year. It’s dark and cold; generally the pretty white snowfalls of December and January have accumulated into giant muddy, slushy heaps. The cars, roadways, and walkways are covered in black sludge and salt that always seems to find its way into the house. 

Of course, let’s not forget that little scruffy weather prognosticator (otherwise known as Punxsutawney Phil), the chunky rodent, who always seems to delight in announcing many more wonderful weeks of winter. 

And then there’s the big Valentine’s Day plopped smack dab in the middle of the month…the time when (depending on the age of your kids) you get to add more to the to-do list, fun things like (1) go searching for the perfect little (cool but cute) cards to be handed out, and, undoubtedly, (2) stay up all night signing them all, and then, (3) prepare the perfect snack for the big party. Ah, yes, Valentine’s Day, the day the little ones get to feast on cupcakes, candy, and sugar, only to be stuck inside with all that energy because it is just too cold to go out. 

Ah, February, it’s the month that sticks in an extra “r” and sometimes even an extra day, just to throw us all off. And here is the big question; why is it that February is the shortest month on the calendar but actually feels like it goes on forever and ever and ever with no end in sight?

So, what do we do when it’s not quite apocalyptic outside, but we are going more than just a little stir crazy inside? Here’s some tips from the experts.

Get Out. Often the weather makes it difficult, but when possible try to get out of the house at least for a little while each day.  Take the kids to the library.  Go on a fieldtrip to a museum.  Meet some friends.  Go bowling.  See a movie.  Go ice-skating.  Visit a family member.

Get Moving. The physical and emotional benefits of exercise are innumerable and unquestionable.  Exercise increases energy levels and boosts mood enhancing chemicals in the body. When possible, try walking outside in the sun. But when the weather makes it impossible to get out for a brisk walk or even to get to the gym, try a workout at home.  These days there are so many options from which to choose. From DVDs to apps to live streaming, the choices are endless. Many choices offer workouts for all levels, from beginner to advanced. For example, instructor Leslie Sansone offers walking workouts that the whole family can do at home. 

Let the Light Shine In. Getting out during the day when the sun is brightest is helpful. Doctors do, however, recommend wearing sunscreen even during the winter.  When inside, keep the blinds open to let in the sunlight.

Talk to Your Doctor. If winter months are especially tough for you, try talking about different health options with your physician. Some options doctors may recommend are light therapy, vitamin D supplements, or even aromatherapy.

Get Rid of the Clutter. Research has found that clutter has a negative effect on our mood and, in fact, causes stress and anxiety. Try taking 20 minutes each day to declutter, or work on a certain area in your home each day.

Keep a Journal. Evidence suggests that keeping a journal can have health benefits. Additionally, reflecting on and adding three things each day for which you are grateful has proven beneficial to our mental health.

Plan a Vacation. Studies have shown that vacations reduce stress, improve cardiovascular health, increase productivity and creativity, and facilitate better sleep. But, surprisingly, the health benefits are not just limited to the get-away, but actually begin with the planning.  Studies show that just looking forward to a trip has many physical and mental health benefits.

Help Someone. Did you know that doing good is actually good for you? Go ahead and look it up. Study after study, scientists find that the positive effects of helping others is undeniable. Benefits include reducing stress and anxiety, boosting the immune system, increasing longevity, reducing chronic pain, providing a sense of purpose and satisfaction, and decreasing depression. Surprisingly, these benefits have a long-lasting effect, continuing long after the helpful actions are completed.

Talk to Someone. Winter can make us feel even more isolated. It is especially important during these times to reach out to a friend or family member. Just talking with someone can help reduce stress and make us feel less alone.

Don’t Ignore Your Spiritual Life. Statistics show that more than 55 percent of Americans pray every day. Many people attest to the importance of prayer in their personal lives. Recent studies have found that prayer, meditation, and reflection do have many health benefits such as decreasing stress, anxiety, and depression.

Whatever you do to get through the bleak days of winter, please always know (1) the sun will come out again; (2) in this whole crazy universe, there is only one you and you are pretty amazing; and (3) you are loved!

So, hang in there; brighter days are just around the corner.

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