Winter Survival Strategy

It’s a beautiful, fall, raking kind of day today. One of our colleagues has declared fall her favorite time of the year. There’s a little part of me that gets that…the ability to walk calf deep in crunchy leaves in the quiet cool dark evenings is a treat. The red cups at Starbucks, along with their gingerbread lattes have emerged. And we are in that brief but wonderful time of the city year where most construction projects are completed and we don’t yet have ice on the roads to slow us down. It actually doesn’t take too long to get to where you want to go in Winnipeg these days.

Ahhh…but winter is in the air. I know that in a few weeks, we’ll be covered in an endless expanse of the chilly white stuff, and then comes the extra work of plugging the car in, letting it warm up before we drive off, and thinking twice about how important it really is to have milk for breakfast the following morning…because the two blocks to the store suddenly seems really far to walk.

My soul gets hungry for color in the white winter, when walks down streets with colorful gardens aren’t an option. There is so much bleak whiteness (which actually has a lot of gritty muddiness thrown in) in winter.

One of the common things in counselling, when the core of an issue is discussed, is begin to develop strategies that accept the reality that is, and can’t be changed, but equip a person to deal with it. So, I’ve been asking myself, “So, what are you going to do to find ways to relate well to winter?”

Hence, my amaryllis:

It is helpful to develop coping strategies to effectively deal with the challenges of life.

No soft pinks, or gentle whites for me. The box has these huge fire-engine red blooms that let’s me know I can expect beautiful fiery red blooms 6 inches across in about 6 weeks or so. And it’s going to say a cheery “hello” to me from my dining room table when I come in from a blustery white day, and it’s gonna feel GOOD to see it.

That’s the thing about coping strategies. You gotta prepare them for the anticipated times of challenge well before the challenge hits. I gotta water this baby occasionally over the coming weeks to get it ready–and get to enjoy the anticipation of how it’s gonna light up the room when I know I’m going to need it to be there for me. That’s the challenge with coping strategies–to come up with them in the moment of crisis can be difficult, if not impossible. The coping strategy often needs practice, development, nurture, or be around long enough to become habit forming, so when the difficult time comes, there is no thinking or planning required–it’s right there waiting for you, ready to help.

What challenges are you anticipating? What reality do you deal with that is difficult? What do you need to do to survive–or even thrive? Do you need to talk to someone to help you develop some coping strategies? Consider an appointment with a counsellor if the strategies you might use elude you.

  • do you need to prepare some ways of phrasing difficult ideas for a challenging conversation that you can anticipate (or have even been putting off) having with a colleague or a spouse?
  • do you need to develop some ways of dealing with anxiety in a certain stressful situation–because avoiding it isn’t going to work forever?
  • is the winter a time of lower mood–Seasonal Affective Disorder? Have you investigated the strategies that could work to make a difficult time of year less of a challenge?

Having strategies to cope doesn’t take away the stress of a situation, but it can make the difference between coping to surviving, or surviving to thriving.

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