Coping while away from home

Coping while away from home

by Genevieve Northup
Stripes Guam

It seems like this time of year, everyone around me is sipping pumpkin spice lattes, showing off their newest scarves and boots, and commenting about the beautiful fall foliage. Unlike my friends, I am not excited about autumn. I hit snooze a few extra times because the mornings are so much darker. Every morning, it takes all my willpower to unwind from the cocoon of blankets and plant my bare feet on the cold floor because I’d rather stay in bed for a few more hours.

The struggle is real every fall:
1. Seemingly overnight, I develop the winter blues, a seasonal mood disorder characterized by mild depression and lower energy levels, triggered by the gloomy weather. But that’s not all.
2. I reluctantly shift my cute sundresses and open-toed shoes to the back of the closet, knowing that my Texas blood will run cold for the foreseeable future. I won’t be warm for the next eight months.
3. I love shopping for and giving thoughtful Christmas gifts — more than receiving them. But I stress about how I will find time to shop and ship everything home before the holiday mailing deadline.
4. I love desserts and baking for the holidays, yet I have to fuss with a small, finicky oven. Plus, I have no self-control when it comes to sweets, so I have to work out more often. And there’s not nearly enough time to make all the recipes I want to try.
5. Amid the holiday celebrations, I am super homesick for my family back in the States.
Sound familiar?

Here’s what to do about it:
It is completely understandable to feel sad, overwhelmed and lethargic, so don’t beat yourself up. I have learned to accept that I am not a fall/winter gal and try to make the most of my least-favorite seasons. These routines have helped me and can help you, too:
1. I combat the winter blues by eating healthy foods, exercising and using a light-therapy box that simulates sunlight (it’s not a tanning lamp). I get outdoors whenever there is sunshine, even if it’s just for a short walk break during my workday. I plan trips to warmer, sunnier destinations.
2. I invested in a coat suitable for the winters and water-resistant boots. I layer up to stay warm and have acquired some nice sweaters and jackets that I am excited to wear.
3. I make a gift list by mid-October and start shopping immediately. When possible, I buy online and ship to stateside recipients. Shutterfly and Etsy are great for unique, personalized items, and I can send Amazon gift cards directly to friends’ and family members’ email addresses. I try to buy only small, non-breakable souvenirs, which makes mailing less stressful. And I have narrowed down my list over the years, sending more greeting cards and fewer presents.
4. I ensure that one dish is on my to-do list each week. I lower the temperature of my oven, reduce cooking times, and hang around to watch the dough rise and brown. I save a couple of servings for myself and send the rest to work with my husband to keep temptation out of the house.
5. Homesickness is tougher to overcome. I keep weekly video chat dates with my family, and I structure my free time. I have dinner with friends and plan weekend getaways with my husband. I work on fun projects around the house, like photo books and holiday decorations. Or I spend my day off relaxing in the toasty saunas and thermal pools at a local spa.
Winter is coming, but this year you’ll be ready.

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