pnwiqvc-1This week’s question is comes from a RevGal stuck in the winter blahs. Can you relate to her cry for help?

Dear Matriarchs:

I have a long stretch ahead with no vacation or continuing education time, just my usual days off (Friday and part of Saturday). Normally I try to get away every 7-8 weeks or so, but I’ll be at work for twice that this winter and need some self-care strategies to keep me from going insane!


From the Land of Never-Ending Winter

Our Matriarchs are ready to pour out upon us an extravagant array of self-care strategies, winter blah edition. Read on:

Dear Pastor of the Frozen Tundra-

I am one of those people who loves to take books on vacation and read in an alternate location.  My spouse doesn’t see the point.  “You could read at home!”  One of the things that I have learned about self-care is that it means different things to different people. I love books and movies and binge watching television shows from Netflix. As long as I can do those things without feeling guilty, I have a wonderful time. My spouse may think I have done nothing all day, but the truth is that I have gone on any number of adventures without leaving the living room.  So my first piece of advice is-  don’t let anyone, including yourself, make you feel like you’re doing it wrong.

When it isn’t possible to go somewhere new, it can be rewarding to make something new. Experiment with a new cuisine. Find a new craft. Explore a hobby you left behind. Do something that makes you feel creative or gives you a sense of accomplishment. 

Change the local scenery.  Clean out a closet. Sort out your books. Paint your bedroom or paint the coffee table. Rearrange the furniture. Plan out the spring garden. Do something that makes your space feel refreshed.

Give yourself a challenge. Take an online course. Check out what’s available at the local community college or park district. Learn a new language on Set a health goal. 

I could blather on and on, instead I will say this.  My own experience is that the measure of a good continuing education experience or vacation is whether or not I return with a sense of excitement for what I’ve done and where I’ve been. Did I come back wanting to tell my friends and coworkers all about my adventure? What could you do this Friday that might lead to that same boost of enthusiasm?   Me? I’ve been trying to learn how to knit socks. It’s a challenge and it’s creative.  Time will tell whether I ever end up with a decent pair of socks.  Right now it’s pretty iffy, but I’m still enjoying the learning process and the creative tension.

Best wishes!
Heidi Rodrick-Schnaath, sometimes known as RevHRod

Dear Winter Rev,

Having lived in a northern clime, my suggestion would be to look for some day activities that feel warm to you. Some possibilities might be a hot stone massage, a mocha in a coffee shop you know has a well-regulated thermostat, a visit with a friend who warms your heart, or a pajama day with movies you have really wanted to watch. 

Blessings in this winter of potential discontent,

Martha Spong

Dear Land of Never Ending Winter,

This is a difficult time of year to keep your spirits up and your body warm!

Since you do not have any immediate trips to give you a break, I would recommend you find some smaller respites along the way:

-a warm bath by candlelight
-a good book by the fireplace
-a long walk indoors in a mall or workout spot
-a dinner out with a friend or loved one
-a massage
-board game night with friends

Whatever you enjoy and brings you small pockets of joy.

Hang in there! Spring is coming.

Rev. Kelley Wehmeyer Shin
Centerville, Ohio

Can’t get away?

If your schedule and work load don’t allow for any time for even a staycation or a “reading week” at home (I’ve gone to the local library as a getaway when my family schedule or the demands of the church year weren’t conducive to leaving town.) Exploring one’s own area can be fun…

What about thinking about some of those Friday/part of Saturdays as a mini-break or study leave in place. Are there local continuing education events available to you? Are there online possibilities of workshops you could attend? Podcasts are great!

For me, having some breaks and interesting things on the calendar that feed my spirit and anticipating them is as wonderful as the breaks themselves.

Best to you,

Oh, sister, I relate to this! I, too, have now begun my longest stretch of the calendar without vacation or continuing education to break it up (and I, too, live in a land where winter is very slow to end). But here are a few things I’m going to try to do this winter:

– Spend at least 15 minutes every day doing something I love – (something not related to my work!)

– Once a month, plan a day where I *only* do things I love (i.e., no church work, no chores or bill-paying, just enjoyable things *without guilt*) – this is a new effort for me, so we’ll see how this goes. It’s the “no guilt” part that I’m working on even more than the “where will I find the time?” part.

– Think about how I can institute weekly technology sabbaths in order to free up more space in my life (and mind) for the types of fun that will really nourish me. (I’ve written in Ask the Matriarch responses before about taking technology sabbaths, but I haven’t been able to maintain that practice for … awhile. I want to try again to unhook myself from screens regularly, even if it’s only for 12 hours a week rather than a whole day.)

As I’ve been thinking about doing things I love, I’m thinking not only of my favorite hobbies but also of some of the types of pursuits I would do if I were on vacation: going to a museum I haven’t been to before; trying out a fancy restaurant in another city (within a reasonable drive); going horseback riding with my family (this will have to wait for warmer weather!). Much of the time, my days off (Fridays and partial Saturdays, like you) are spent catching up on house/family/personal responsibilities as well as trying to get a little extra sleep. I know I couldn’t give every Friday to pursuing fun activities that aren’t related to responsibilities, but I’m hopeful that once a month is a reasonable target. 

Hang in there, and good luck taking care of yourself! I’m eager to see what others recommend.

Stacey aka earthchick

Dear Land of Never-Ending Winter, 

I share your dilemma. Aside from one week of study leave in early February, I’m on deck until May 1st. I live in a particularly snowy, cold part of Canada, so I’m with you on that front as well. 

I find the best way to get through the long winter is to enjoy it as much as possible, preferably outdoors. Whenever the temps are cold-but-not-ridiculous, I go for a walk or get out my snowshoes and hit the trail. There’s something so invigorating about getting your body moving, feeling the sun/wind/snow on your face, and breathing fresh air. Even on days when I think it might be too cold to enjoy the outdoors, I bundle up and promise myself I’ll make it a short walk if I’m too cold. I always stay out longer than anticipated and generally come across the same folks in the neighbourhood (the dog-owners, of course!) who are happy to stop and say hello. 

Also, it’s awesome to come back inside to the warmth and curl up with a good book! 

Blessings from Way Up North, 

Dear Winter-and-Work Bound,

If all you have is your 1 or 1.5 day off, make sure that time is distinguished from other days in as many ways as possible so that you notice and feel the difference.  Have something different for breakfast, linger over the newspaper, treat the free day as a day of adventure. Are there nearby museums, galleries, geological oddities, parks, etc. that you have not yet visited?  Take yourself on a little outing.  It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun–you can do goofy things like riding a random bus to the end of the line to see what’s out there while you listen to a novel you downloaded from the library on your smart phone. 

One thing I did last year that yielded a great deal of fun one day at a time was pledge to visit every park in our county.  It was a hoot, and I saw parts of our county I hadn’t even imagined.  I personally like lists so it was enjoyable to check the parks off the county Parks and Recreation map as I visited and hiked in them.  What do you enjoy that you could visit every one of in your area?

If the weather is too miserable for outdoor outings, indoor movies are a nice mental break.  Make your own movie festival at home if you can’t get to a theater.  See if you can get “Enchanted April”–you’ll feel like you were on vacation by the end of it. 

Don’t look at your email on a day off!  Without being fundamentalist about it, I tend to think of even a little bit of work or work related thinking as a sort of pollutant that can spread through your freedom like a little oil slick on a pond–even 10 minutes of business-y email in a 24 hour Sabbath is an impediment to freedom and rest.  Let your computer rest when you rest. 

Also: Chocolate.  ‘Nuff said.

Peace, Dee Eisenhauer
Eagle Harbor Congregational Church, Bainbridge Island, Washington


Thank you, generous and wise Matriarchs! I was taking notes.

How about you, dear Revs? Which of these sounds good to you? What gets you out of your own winter blahs? Let us know in the comments below.

What’s got you confounded or stuck or wishing you had a new way of looking at things? Send your question to askthematriarch (at) gmail (dot) com and let us support you through it.

Rev. Sharon Temple is a United Church of Christ pastor in Nashville TN.  She is a contributor to the RevGals book, “There’s a Woman in the Pulpit” and blogs at Tidings of Comfort and Joy.

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2 thoughts on “Ask the Matriarch: Relief from the Winter Blahs

  1. One way I have found to help through the winter gloom (out of doors and in my head) is to visit a greenhouse/nursery. If you have a garden to plant in the spring, you can get ideas, and if (like me), you don’t, you can just soak up the warmth and greenery and blooms and pretend spring is closer than it maybe really is. Maybe even take home a new plant to add some more green to your home–I usually ended up taking to the office instead, thanks to a plant-munching cat–but that can be a spirit-lifter too. And the visit, at least, is free!


  2. if you can afford it, a night out (with or without spouse/partner) in a hotel with a pool and spa- even if it is freezing outside, time in the sauna/Jacuzzi/watching Netflix in your hotel room are a great way to feel like you are warm and really “away”, even if you are still nearby


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