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From the blogs: How to avoid going stir crazy in cold

Editor’s note: The following is a blog entry for “Ms. Simplicity” that appears on the Echo Press website under Areavoices. It is written by Melissa Schmalenberger, a professional organizer based in Fargo, North Dakota.

Too many cold days. Too many snow days. The book that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote called The Long Winter was indeed a cautionary tale. Let’s face it; we are all going a little stir crazy. We start to hate our Facebook friends who post pictures from warm and sunny destinations. We start to salivate over pictures of comfort food, pictures full of carbs and sugar. We drive to the gym then circle the parking lot to find a close parking spot only to give up and go home because we don’t want to walk from the car to the gym because of the cold (true story).

I have lived in the upper Midwest for most of my life and I know cold. I can tolerate the cold. The wind, however, is not my friend. Living in the Red River Valley we are a giant wind tunnel from the polar vortex I call Canada. But now I just want to be in denial.

But denial isn’t very productive. We need to survive this in order to hear birds chirping from trees. Right now the birds are even wearing little tiny scarves that someone knitted for them. But instead of closing my eyes and counting down the days to spring, I am doing something else. I am trying to find beauty in the cold. I am doing things that keep both my mind and body busy. Last week I found the most glorious of sunrises. That image of that sunrise stayed with me all day, despite the bitter cold.

Here are some ideas to get you going in the right direction in keeping your mind and body busy for the next couple of weeks.

• Find a physical challenge at your gym and join it. Don’t belong to a gym, then find a group of friends who also want to be active and hold each other accountable. A pedometer is a great way to count your steps to make sure that you get to 10,000 per day. The mall is full of people walking and getting their steps in. Go and join them!

• Update your legal papers. When was the last time your will was updated? How about that power of attorney over your financial affairs and your health care directive or a living will? If you don’t even have these, this is your time to get one. Just knowing that you have your legal papers in order brings comfort.

• Get your vitamin D levels checked. Once I started taking larger doses of vitamin D I saw a huge spike in my happiness level.

• Do a random act of kindness for a stranger. And I don’t mean buy the person behind you a cup of coffee. Take it further and call your local women’s shelter or homeless shelter and see what they are in need of. Perhaps they need size 2 toddler clothes and you just happen to have a box of them from your child who has outgrown them. Doing something kind will make you feel great! Share what you did with your close friends. Challenge your friends to do the same and create a random act of kindness chain reaction.

• Invite a friend that you haven’t seen in awhile out for coffee. Sometimes giving an ear to someone is all they need to make their day brighter.

• Write five thank you notes. Not for gifts received but for a friend that helped you through a hard time or was there for you with support. Remind them that you are thankful to them. Let me tell you, a thank you note and a smile can go a long way.

• Take a class that pushes your boundaries. For me, it was swing dancing lessons with strangers. Great fun and now I can dance just a wee bit better. I also took aerial yoga classes, yes, that was outside my comfort zone, but oh so good for me.

• Change the desktop background on your computer and your phone to a picture that brings you joy. I just changed mine this morning to a beautiful picture that I took over two years ago of the sun being playful in some maple leaves. Surrounding yourself with beautiful images will help take the focus off of the cold.

• Stop talking about the weather. What would happen if we all agreed to stop talking about it. Start having new conversations. Ask questions like, what brought you joy today? Or, what can I do to help your day go better? I guarantee that if you start asking those types of questions, magical things will start to happen in your life!