I find it perversely comforting that mine has never been a seasonal affective disorder. Where’s the fun in a depression tied to the shifts in the seasons, when you can have a wee pal which shows up whenever and wherever it wants?
Winter is probably my favourite time of year. I’m that one pal who would always rather be too cold than too hot, staging a war of attrition over when it’s time to finally turn up the thermostat (as if it’s a gendered thing). I like hot chocolate with tonnes of mini marshmallows, scented candles and fairy lights offering pinpricks of cheer against the early darkness. I like warm hats and scarves, and the contrast with my nose or fingertips left unprotected against the cold.
And yet, these past few weeks have been kinda rough.
I’ve written before about the link between my physical health and my mental health, and when I caught a cold again a couple of weeks back it went straight back into my sinuses. I’m on fewer meds than at any winter since my early teens, but when on Friday I forgot to take them entirely the effect was still a dramatic one. I spent my long weekend in the house watching episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, loading up my skin with a yoghurty body butter to try and fend off the itchiness and treating myself to a couple of extra hours in bed when my plans cancelled rather than getting up and getting some bloody work done.
If there is a seasonal aspect to my depression, it comes only when the dying of the year means I start reckoning with how little things have changed. It’s a case of Peggy Sang The Blues-itis, you know, no-one gets remembered for the things they didn’t do. But when I can’t even regulate my own body temperature, or get nearly enough sleep, what am I supposed to do about it?
What I always do. Find contentment where I can: in books, in music, in a fresh, new planner and the tiny whimpering noises my boy-cat makes when I go in for a cuddle while he’s trying to have his fourth nap of the morning, god damn you woman. And in building the perfect reading corner on the sofa: a blanket fort full of stories I can retreat into while the weather carries on outside.
You will need:
The bigger and softer the better. I think this blush pink, TK Maxx effort* was supposed to be a throw for the sofa, but the faux-mohair thing it has going on means it’s perfect for curling up in and won’t moult on your pyjamas. I’m so protective of this thing that I fold it up and store it in a canvas tote bag when not in use, because leaving as much as a cardigan on the floor in this house is sufficient for it to be claimed by the cats.
The sight of me wrapped up in a blanket or an oversized cardigan should not be taken as an invitation to turn the heating up; oh no. I take so much joy in cold air on exposed extremities – a shoulder here, a foot there – while the rest of me is cushioned in softness.
Candles and mood lighting.
Never underestimate the power of a good scented candle. It’s something I constantly forget, which was why when I went to light my new Pumpkin Pie and Vanilla scented candle* (another TK Maxx winter warmer!) I had to move another three white jars of candle, in various stages of burn, out of the way first.
As a childhood reader-from-under-the-blankets – a fact that the glasses might be a testament to – I don’t like the room to be too bright when I am reading so an uplighter and spotlight, with a string of battery-operated decorative lights wrapped around, make the perfect compromise. I get the perfect cosy atmosphere, but still have plenty of light to read. And there’s no better time to pick up battery-operated decorative lights to bring a bit of extra cosy to your living space than late November, for some reason.
Candles might not be the first thing to spring to mind when you think of TK Maxx, but my local one always has tonnes of seasonally-scented, reasonably-priced jar candles available. They’d be my go-to for candles, if I ever remembered to light the things.
I’ve lived in a town, and then the city, all my life, so I never thought of myself as having much of a connection to the outdoors. But even my neat, new-build house, with its state-of-the-art air filtering system, feels claustrophobic and stuffy to me when it’s too cold to open the windows for any length of time.
My colleague and friend, journalist and perfumier Tessa Williams, sent me one of her home sprays earlier in the year, but it’s only been this couple of weeks that I’ve felt myself really getting the benefit of it. More intense than a candle but far less cloying and thick than a traditional air freshener, Tessa’s room sprays are like perfume for your living spaces – and, like the luxury scented candles I’ve featured in the past, come in four varieties each designed to invoke one of the traditional “elements”: earth, fire, air and water.
The Earth spray* I’ve been using manages to be both fresh and a little bit woody, delivering a scent that is long-lasting but won’t overpower the room. I’m pretty useless at describing perfumes, so I was delighted to discover that the scent is supposed to evoke “wood trails, unspoilt beautiful landscapes and forest land”, with zesty top notes and patchouli, sandalwood and cedar in the mix. A little of this goes a long way, especially if you’re using it in a wardrobe or luggage (both suggested by Tessa) – so this would make a lovely, Scottish-made gift for somebody this Christmas.
Because there’s nothing more comforting than a hot, slightly sweet cup of tea. I don’t add sugar to mine, unless I’m in desperate need of a pick-me-up: instead, I go for innovative loose-leaf blends with a little something sweet in the mix. Not so much that it makes your teeth hurt, but enough that it keeps things interesting.
I’m still drinking through the supplies I picked up from DAVIDsTEA in Canada – a sprinkles-packed Birthday Cake Rooibos, and the limited edition S’mores Chai, with its hint of toasted marshmallow, that was disappearing just as I was. But the T2 Tea Scots Breakfast, with its warming hints of oats and a sneaky Tunnocks Snowball, packs plenty of the same into a tasty, everyday morning brew.
My Buckfast at Tiffany’s mug, by Glasgow designer Lisa Donati (and available at the Braw Wee Emporium!) is my new favourite, of course.
This post contains PR samples, but all views are my own and unbiased.