Personal

My Plan for Overcoming the Winter Blues

Sirmione's castle extending into lake Garda
I don’t want to feel this blue…

Winter has never been a friend of mine.

It’s the season when I am at my least productive, least happy and most sluggish. Everything takes ages to do and I live mostly in my head, thinking and overthinking things, instead of getting on with them.

Christmas seems to be the only ray of light, overtaken all too soon by cold January days, when all hope seems to fade.

I believe that one of the big reasons for my feeling this way is the weather. Cold, damp, eternally rainy… I’ve been through 13 winters in England that seemed to stretch from the end of August all the way through May with the occasional respite that a momentary heat wave would provide in November and then March.

Winters in my home country of Bulgaria were really not that great for me either. My hometown Varna is on the Black sea coast and while in Summer it’s a joy to be there on the beach, come winter there is always a strong breeze straight from the sea that chills you to the bone. Add to this the heavy autumn rains that only too easily turn into wet slushy snowfalls.

No, I’ve never liked winter that much and I’m afraid to say that it never liked me back either.

My impetus to move to Italy was largely inspired by my desire to escape winter or at least to find its milder version with days that are not abruptly plunged in darkness by the Sun disappearing at 3 pm and that are not drenched entirely by a heavy, grey and unforgiving rain.

I remember that the last few days we spent in England before moving to Italy at the end of August this year were rather drizzly and cold. I bought a number of warm little outfits from Marks & Spencer’s for my baby so that she would look her best next to her fashionable little Italian friends. As it happens, these warm little outfits have hardly made it out of the wardrobe yet!

Late summer and autumn in our little corner of Italy were mostly splendid. Yes, there have been the occasional downpour and the occasional drop in temperatures, but nothing like the constantly grey skies hanging low over my head that I had started to fear in London and then in our adopted for two years hometown of Chatham, Kent.

Italian people around us keep complaining about the weather, but I really want to take them by the hand, lift the charming veil that London puts on for newcomers and show them what it means to live for months on end without sun. No wonder that everyone there seems to be so addicted to shopping, just like I was. I gather the bright lights of the fabulous shops serve as a substitute sun that is so hard to resist, when the real thing hasn’t made an appearance for days, weeks and months at a time.

I was so exasperated with all that water that kept coming down, that I remember telling a friend who visited me in London from New York: ‘No, there is no need for us to sit in a cafe for half an hour until the rain stops. It never stops, we just need to put our hoods on and soldier on. Here, this is how it is.’

So, living in Italy and enjoying the rays of the gorgeous Italian sun on my face every day has been largely beneficial to me so far. I feel more settled and more relaxed, have lost the need to simply shop, shop, shop, and I am getting on with things in my life that I have successfully put off for ages before, like starting my own blog. Hurray!

There is still the occasional blip though, when on a rare gloomy day, I succumb to old habits and just feel bereft and adrift. In order to face up to these days I have devised a little plan which, hopefully, would help me get through life when my first Italian winter really strikes.

1. Get out of the house each day! – I know it sounds like such a basic thing, but I have been working from home since 2003, so I haven’t had a daily need to leave the house since then. With online shopping, online banking and everything else taken care online, at one point I was working so hard that it was quite the habit for me not to leave the house for at least a week at a time. It’s easier than you think first not to go out, then to actually lose the impetus to leave the house and socialise. I was so caught up in my work and not going out that much (and at times at all) that I actually developed a vitamin D deficiency. A routine blood test showed that I was three times below the lower bracket of what’s considered normal vitamin D levels. This stressed me no end! Immediately, some big life changes were put into place. I dropped some clients, started working much less, lost a lot of weight and above all started to find reasons to just go out of the house each day. I am still consciously trying to do this. It could be a quick journey to the local supermarket. Or it could be a brisk walk into the centro storico of town. It’s very easy for me to fall back into my old ways of simply staying in, so no matter what’s the weather, I need to open the door, step outside and be part of the world again.

2. Appreciate my lifestyle! – I love it here, yes, I really do. It’s just that after close to four months living in Vicenza and exploring Veneto and beyond at the drop of a hat, I feel like I am sort of starting to get for granted the fact that we are in Italy and not in our previous place in Chatham, Kent. As such, especially on days, when I am open to negative thoughts, I need to actively remind myself to look up when I walk down the street and admire the amazing architecture, the centuries old unique shops, the lovely little details like balconies turned into hanging gardens that surround me here, as opposite to the uninspiring look that Chatham is sporting to this day. I don’t want to lose my initial wonderment of being able to buy my bread from the local panificio where everything is made in the early morning of that very same day, rather than getting an uninspiring loaf of bread from a huge, brightly lit supermarket that has been arranged in such a way so as to maximise my spending in it. So, yes, I am grateful when we have breakfast as a family most working days, rather than my husband having to rush out of the door in the early hours of the morning in order to commute to a far off place. I am grateful that, come Saturday, we can simply pile in our little red car and drive to an amazing place like Marostica, Verona or even Italy’s largest lake. I guess, no matter where you live, there is always a chance that you would succumb to the pressures of daily life and forget the beauty of it all, so I need to make a conscious effort to avoid this easy pitfall.

3. Make new friends! – I found it extremely difficult to make friends when I lived in London. It is such a huge place and people travel great distances just to get to work and then back home, that it seems to sap a lot of the spontaneity of simply calling someone and then have coffee with them that same afternoon. Everything there needs to be organised days and weeks in advance and most people plan their lives two or three years ahead in a diary which becomes something like a best friend. Also, there seems to be a distance between people, which remains unbroken even on the fullest of tube trains. It is quite amazing to see how everyone, crammed in such a small place, studiously ignores everybody else by reading a book, staring at the advertisements above people’s heads or simply by refusing to make eye contact no matter what. I find it rather refreshing here in Vicenza to be able to chat to people as I go into shops, walk down the street and go about my daily life. Our neighbours appear at the window, when they see us outside of the house, to make small talk. So, I am making a conscious effort to expand my net of friends. Not knowing Italian hinders me a bit. My acquired in London shyness also hinders me a lot. But I need to persevere, as it’s really great to hear a new friend call your name and then stop for a chat on the street, as it happened to me only the other day.

I guess, I can keep adding to this list. Things like:
– don’t stay up until the small hours,
– lay off the panettone and in general don’t overdo the sweet stuff,
– start practising yoga or perhaps go to the gym,
– keep offloading by writing,
would also be super helpful to make me break the vicious cycle of ‘bad weather. feeling isolated, getting the winter blues’. Still, if I manage to stick to the main three that I have covered above, this would be great and perhaps my first Italian winter would actually be a success.

Are you battling your own winter blues? How are things going for you? Let me know in a comment below or get in touch with me on the social media accounts indicated at the top of this page.

Enjoy your day!

Rossi xx 

About the author

Rossi

Rossi

Hello! I am Rossi - a Bulgarian currently living in Italy after a 14-year stint in England. This is my blog about my life in these three countries, travels around Europe and opinions about the world we live in. For regular updates, please, subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on social media online. You can also get in touch via the Contacts form or by commenting on the articles in my blog.

Leave a Comment