As we head into the third week of January, it seems like a good time to talk about the Bad Season.
Regardless of when your Bad Season strikes, the best coping mechanisms actually tend to be the same across seasons. Here are some things that my coworkers and I have found helpful for dealing with our respective Bad Seasons:
1. Admit to yourself that it’s your Bad Season.
When you're feeling down, it can be easy to tell yourself it’s just the political climate/your shitty job/your recent breakup/etc. And sure, maybe it is those things! But if this sense of dread sets in (or ratchets wayyyy up) annually, you may just have a Bad Season. And that’s OK! I've found it's a relief to admit that, in the same way I feel relieved to get my period the day after being uncharacteristically emotional over something silly. It's always nice when our existential dread has a clear reason, you know?
2. Plan some things you can look forward to.
It's honestly sort of ridiculous how much having things to look forward to helps during a Bad Season! Turns out, we’re all pretty simple creatures, and solutions that seem way too basic/obvious to actually work...actually do work.
So, what kinds of events should you get on your calendar? Well, if it’s in your budget, a little weekend getaway goes a long way. But even just taking the time to set up a bunch of fun hangouts or events that you'll genuinely look forward to makes a huge difference. The biggest thing is to be super intentional about what you’re doing, and to basically maximize these events for fun potential. It's not enough to make a bunch plans; you should make plans that you’ll actually want to keep — so instead of filling your calendar with a bunch of things you’re half-hearted about and will ultimately want to cancel, aim for quality hangouts that genuinely excite you.
Your Bad Season is the perfect time for buying movie tickets for the opening night of a big new release, hosting a Drink Talk Learn Party, doing a seasonal run of Friday Night Meatballs, starting an article club, going to trivia nights, hosting game nights, starting a monthly recipe club, and scheduling theme parties or themed movie nights.
3. And plan ahead — schedule a few of these fun activities in the middle or toward the end of the season so you don’t run out of things to look forward to.
You could also make a recurring plan — like a monthly dinner or weekly class — to ensure you have something consistent throughout your Bad Season.
4. Invest in clothes that will make your Bad Season more comfortable (whether that means cooler or more cozy).
Turns out, a lot of the issues we have with a particular season are wardrobe related. It makes sense — if you’re too hot, too cold, too wet, too exposed, or wearing something that's itchy or ill-fitting, it’s basically impossible to feel at ease. So take some time to figure out the role your current wardrobe plays in your feelings about a particular season, and see where you can make some changes. And get specific — think about socks, boots, sandals, gloves, sunglasses, pajamas, coats, weekend wear, and the clothes you wear after work but before bedtime. What items do you dread putting on? What elements have the potential to ruin your day? When during your day do you feel the most sluggish and blah? Is there anything you can change about your wardrobe that would help a tiny bit?
5. Add structure to your indoor/hideaway behavior.
During your Bad Season, there’s a good chance you’re going to want to spend a lot of time at home/in bed/on the couch. And that’s fine! But being a little more intentional about that time can go a long way. For example, instead of watching whatever Netflix suggests, you could watch all of the best rom coms from the past 30 years and do a genre study, or every episode of an old sitcom like The Dick Van Dyke Show or I Love Lucy. Or maybe instead of scrolling through Instagram endlessly, you give yourself a goal of reading distraction-free for 30 minutes each evening, or becoming an expert on one new topic each week. (Get some inspiration for that last one here: 13 Weird And Wonderful Topics To Become An Expert On Because Why Not.) No need to get super ambitious here, either; the point is to look for small ways to upgrade the behavior that typically leaves you feeling sluggish and blah.
6. Pick up a new hobby.
Hobbies! Help! (Again, we're all simple creatures.) If you need some ideas, give these a read: 8 Creative Hobbies To Take Up In 2017 and 25 Creative Hobbies To Try When Everything Is Awful And You're Not Okay.
7. Figure out where/when/how you might need to adjust your schedule.
I'm sorry to inform you that you might not be able to talk yourself into 6 a.m. workouts when it’s cold and dark outside. And even if you’re an avowed morning showerer, you might feel loads better if you shower before bed in the summer. Basically: your schedule just might not look the same all year, and that’s OK! Better to find a new temporary schedule that works for you than to struggle and feel shitty about yourself every day for three months.
8. Figure out how to best feed yourself.
Finding a few recipes or combinations of foods that leave you feeling nourished and that you can make without a ton of effort/stress helps so much during the Bad Season. In the summer, try a snack plates (think: Lunchables but for grown-ups) or Greek yogurt, granola, nut butter, and fruit for dinner. In the winter, we love this lemon butter pasta and this quick pasta with chickpeas. And year-round, simple quesadillas and frozen pierogis are my go-to. You could also try some of the recipes on this list: 25 Simple Meals You Can Make When Your Life Is In Shambles.
9. Consider turning cooking into a hobby in its own right.
10. Or make food prep a social experience to hit tip #2 and tip #9 at the same time.
Now is the time to start a lunch club with coworkers or a soup club with pals!
11. Keep an eye on your alcohol intake.
I used to drink a lot more in the summer, something I later realized was coming from a good place ("I shouldn't sit at home feeling sad! I should go out and be social!") but wasn't the healthiest thing. Now when summer rolls around, I'm more mindful about how much I'm drinking and what my motivation is when I do.
12. Spend some time in nature.
I am....slightly embarrassed by how much being in nature regularly helped me through my most recent summer in the city. It helped a lot, especially when I combined it with a little trip (see #1). But even just making an effort to observe nature more on my daily commute made a big difference.
Similarly, midday walks in the winter — when, yeah, it’s cold, but it’s also bright and there’s fresh air — and playing in the snow can make January and February way more bearable.
13. Put water on the problem.
Take a shower, take a bath, wash your feet, go for a swim, walk along a river, go to a shore...when your Bad Season is really getting you down, water can be really damn soothing, and a good quick fix.
14. Get yourself some string lights.
There’s something magical about twinkle lights and candles, and it bums me out that we generally confine this magic to the month of December. So if you’re feeling uninspired in your home after dark, light a few candles and consider buying a set of string lights. (Get some ideas for how/where to hang them here: 17 Ways To Decorate Every Corner Of Your Home With String Lights.)
15. Put down your phone.
Spending a ton of time mindlessly scrolling through Insta or FB can leave you feeling blah even in the best of times — but when you're struggling to cope with a season that everyone else seems to be enjoying, it can feel particularly isolating. So it might be a good time to delete your apps, or at least move them off your home screen and/or and turn off notifications.
16. Decide if there’s anything you like about the season and lean into those things.
For example, I think summer sucks, but the sunny (and considerably cooler) mornings genuinely inspire me, and I always feel cheerier when I get up at the crack of dawn on summer mornings. And maybe you hate winter but can at least embrace it as prime bath time. Basically, if there's anything you like about your Bad Season, try to do as much of that as you possibly can.
17. Lower your expectations for yourself.
It’s easy to beat yourself up about feeling anti-social, being less productive, working out less, etc. But not all of your goals or qualities are going to be compatible with a bad season, and it can be a huge relief to just accept that.
18. Remember that therapy is an option.
As BuzzFeed has previously written, a lot of people think that going to therapy once means you’re going to be in therapy forever, but therapy be a one-time deal or just a few months of sessions. So if you're really struggling with your Bad Season, it might be worth it to talk to a profesh. Get more info on how to find, start, and get the most out of therapy here: Everything You Could Possibly Want To Know About Therapy.
19. Tell your friends/family that you find the season hard to deal with, so they can be kind and (hopefully!) accommodating.
It can be so hard to admit you’re struggling, but having now done the thing, I can tell you that hiding how shitty you feel only makes you feel worse, and being more open is a huge relief. And who knows? You may find that other people are feeling the same way and are relieved to know they aren’t alone. But even if they aren’t, they are likely to get it and want to show up for you during this time. And regardless of how other people react, you should still do it for your own sake. When you're holding so many things inside you, setting one thing down goes a long way.