Beating the Mid-Winter Blues

The chaos of everyday life often seems to intensify in January and February. Cold temperatures, bleak skies, cooped-up kids, and the end of celebrations and vacations can conspire to make your temper as short as those mid-winter days. When you add in the demands of caregiving, suddenly everything becomes an ordeal.

One key that can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed: Find ways to regain control, no matter how small. Your workload at the office and caregiving responsibilities might be nonnegotiable, so look to ways to minimize the chaos at home:

Color-code by Family Member

Few things are more frustrating than hearing, “but it’s not mine!” when you ask one family member after another to put something away. One way to avoid this: Assign each person a color or pattern. When the blue towel is in a soggy heap on the bathroom counter or the polka-dot backpack is in the middle of the floor, you’ll know the culprit.

Give Specific Instructions

Do you feel ignored when you tell your kids to put their stuff away? Be sure they know exactly what “stuff” you mean—and make sure they know where each item (including any new toys or equipment) is supposed to be stowed. “Please put your wet mittens on the radiator, and if you’re done with your homework, put it in your bookbag—it’s time to set the table,” leaves no room for doubt about what you want done or when.

Organize and Compartmentalize

How much time do you spend looking for your keys or cell phone, rooting through your junk drawer, untangling necklaces, burrowing through the pile of shoes on your closet floor? Invest in drawer dividers or pretty baskets (or repurpose containers or boxes) and designate a spot for the stuff you most often lose—or lose time looking for. Check for creative ideas on Pinterest or in magazines.

Take a Few Minutes for Yourself

Give yourself the opportunity to recharge, and focus on the quality of the time, not just the duration: If finding your workout gear and getting to and from the gym wears you out as much as an hour-long exercise class, take a walk around the block instead. Or stop into a coffee shop after you’ve run your errands and savor your latte before you head home.

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