This weekend, I attended my friend Eli’s annual Christmas in February party. Why Christmas in February? Because whoever planned Christmas Classic™ severely underestimated when humanity would need its ultra-dose of cheer and goodwill to get through the winter. It’s like when everyone was calling the Lindbergh babynapping the “crime of the century”even though it only happened less than a third of the way through said century. The hubris! Save some crime for the remaining 68 years!
Anyway, Christmas should be in February, because February is an endless grind of shuffling days and toss-turning nights and waking up thinking “well, I guess I’m alive.” February is so bleak that merely existing causes a deep ache in your body and/or soul. Snow has lost its luster. Boots have lost their tread. You, perhaps, have lost your will to persevere into March.
But February can be endured. Even in a year like 2016 where some wily trickster has snuck in an extra day of bluster and misery, you are equal to the task of not succumbing to it. How? With these tried-and-true lifestyle tips from me, a person who has made it through 26 and a half of these bad boys.
Light some candles and draw a hot bath with calming essential oils like lavender or peppermint. Get in the tub, then submerge your whole head. The water will muffle your screams of desperation.
Get some exercise. Exercise is terrible and ordinarily you should never have to do it, but in February I give you permission to do like many a women’s magazine has suggested and “work exercise into your everyday activities.” For example: when you tumble off the couch in a post-nap fog of despair, do a push-up before righting yourself.
Touch a living thing. It CAN be something like your Christmas Amaryllis or the pantry moth you finally manage to squash between your palms, but best practice is something with fur, like a dog or cat or friendly opossum. This will produce a hormone called “oxycontin” or something and your synapses will explode with pleasure and optimism. Besides, that Christmas Amaryllis is never going to bloom anyway.
Blind yourself with light. Experts will say that you need a special lamp to alleviate cruddy February feelings, but I say just stare at a bare fluorescent bulb until you get multicolored floaters so fascinating you can’t take your eyes off of them, or vice versa! Short-term distraction from existential lethargy is worth long-term retinal damage, I always say.
Eat foods that are hot. I don’t know why, but something about the thermogenic effect of freshly roasted brussels sprouts or freshly-microwaved frozen burrito will cause a concomitant warming of your soul. Salad in February will make you want to die. If you’re the sort of person who regularly drinks smoothies, you are likely too self-satisfied about being flush with nutrients to need these tips anyway.
—Corollary: drink some tea. Tea is practically water and water is good for you, but drinking hot water alone is the kind of thing only people on juice cleanses do. Use tea bags if you have them, you freakin’ ROCKEFELLER, but if you’re an ordinary plebe like me you can just dump whatever stuff you’ve got (like sliced-up ginger root or turmeric powder or chunks of lemon) into a mug and pour boiling water on it.
—Exception: eat as much citrus fruit as you can possibly stomach. Clementines are like chewing on wedges of pure sunshine. Blood oranges are like EATING BLOOD. Grapefruits are fine if you have one of those jagged-edged spoons.
Immerse yourself in the kind of thick non-fiction books with no pictures that are gathering dust on your father’s bookshelves. You know the ones I mean: small print and titles like “America in the Depression,” “The Grimmest Hour of the Storming of Normandy,” and “They Died Screaming in Their Beds: The 1915 Bloodboil Epidemic in San Diego.” They will not make you feel better, per se, but you might gain some perspective.
Don’t drink alcohol. It’s so counterintuitive, I know! But alcohol is technically a depressant, and it’s also expensive. It really is not going to make you feel any better. Here: pretend you’re in the Union Army, and they have to saw your leg off, but the last brandy ration has gone to your comrade in arms Jebediah Wagonwheel to help him endure an experimental eye-gouging procedure after he caught a musketball to the face. In other words, grit your teeth, valiantly, and maybe bite down on a leather strap.
Sleep a lot. Not just at night. Work sporadic sleep-snacks into your daily schedule. Use the Pomodoro technique: for every 25 minutes of sleep, do 5 minutes of work.
Don’t take your Christmas tree down, if applicable. Look, I know it’s already Lent (Christ, Lent AND February? This is a Puritan time indeed), but every sight of those crispy brown needles and wanly-winking lights will jolt you—albeit briefly—out of your melancholy. At least until you realize how embarrassing it’ll be to toss the thing on the curb in March.
Watch the thing that you like. You know the one. It’s okay that you’re not reading a book or composing a symphony or curing cancer with your record-breaking marathon time. Just pile on the blankets and watch the thing.
Skip it. Just skip all of February. Fake your own death and go to Florida or California or, I dunno, Monaco. Failing that, just do the stuff that you have to, like your job, and your deadline-y projects, and all relevant caretakery of yourself and others, but don’t pick this month to launch the ambitious stuff. Just maintain your pace for 29 days, like a shark swimming ever-forward. Then fake your own death, and get to work.