Low-to-No-Cost Ways to Enjoy Winter Self-Soothing

Research studies far and wide have found that the winter – with its lack of sunlight and freezing temperatures, among other things – has an effect on people’s moods, particularly for the worse. So, while self-soothing practices are important to keep up year-long, we may need a special reminder to do so in the winter when trudging through blizzards in the darkness on our way to class – definitely not the most relaxing image!

I say self-soothing because Deanna Zandt’s zine “The Unspoken Complexity of ‘Self-Care’” notes the differences between this term and self-care. Self-soothing is more about the activities we do to entertain or distract, while self-care includes things we do that support our growth in all aspects, like therapy, taking care of finances or napping! Often these categories overlap, but because this list focuses more on producing entertainment and relaxation, I’ll address these as self-soothing techniques.

Further, everyone deserves to be able to partake in these activities: self-soothing and self-care should not have to cost a lot in order to be worth something, nor should they have the reputation of solving all your life’s problems. In answer to this issue, here’s a list of some of the things I take to when the winter blues start to pile up, for little to no cost:​

  1. 1. Bathing

    Photo of a full bath with green plants, candles and bottles surrounding its edges. On a rack overtop the bath lays a book.

    The rejuvenating powers of a warm bath are nothing to take lightly! I don’t know why I stopped bathing post-toddlerhood, but it was definitely a mistake I’m making reparations for. Bathing at least once a week is something that calms me down as it forces me to take time and sit with my thoughts in a way a rushed shower might not. Adding some epsom salts or bubble bath are cheap ways to enhance this experience, too!

  2. 2. Reading

    Image with a light blue background featuring a stack of colourful books.

    One of my favourite things about being an English major is that my “textbooks”…are really just books. And for a book nerd like me, that’s a dream come true! Reading takes time away from the screens and forces you to slow down and even empathize with the story at hand. As a child, reading fiction made for a good escape from any adversities I may have been facing in real life. Though I still enjoy this, I’ve found non-fiction in my adult years to be just as enticing as I get to learn from others’ real journeys. Grab your next favourite title at a local bookstore or for free at a library!

  3. 3. TV binging

    Image of a brown femme sitting at a desk, surrounded by plants and on their computer.

    Conversely, some screen time may be just what you need for a heavy dose of entertainment or even distraction. I, myself, am guilty of having completed 15 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy in just over a year’s time, which my boyfriend so shamelessly calculated as one season every three weeks (Thanks for that, Dey). If you don’t have access to streaming services like Netflix or Disney+, free online sites are still up, running and reliable like the good old days. Just avoid the sketchy advertisements and you’re good to go!

  4. 4. Baking

    Photo featuring the making of gingerbread cookies with dough, spoons and honey spread out.

    This is probably the most rewarding method of entertaining self-soothing, at least to me. I think there is something really cathartic in the practice of creating something, whether it’s art or food – baking just happens to be both! Beyond the cost of some supplies, this is also a relatively cheap activity, and could even turn into a mini potluck with some friends. Try out winter or holiday-themed designs while you’re at it!

  5. 5. DIY skin-care

    Image of a brown femme applying a green face mask.

    My favourite thing ever. I make my own exfoliants, and lotions on occasion, and pairing these with your bath experience is one of the best ways to spend a night. For exfoliating scrubs, I mix sugar (brown or white) with liquid coconut oil (you can melt solid if you have it), Vitamin E, shea butter, essential oils and food colouring. But that’s a bit further on the bougie end of things. At the heart of a good scrub, all you’ll need is the sugar and coconut oil to shed your skin of old dirt and get a thorough moisturizing experience!

  6. 6. Meditation

    Image of a femme meditating in the lotus position (sitting with legs crossed, hands on knees and thumbs and middle fingers touching), surrounded by plants and a cat.

    Enjoying lavish nights out is all about location, location, location; but catching some rejuvenating alone time indoors? Meditation, meditation, meditation. At this time of year, we’re all more likely to be snuggling up inside anyway, far from the incoming polar vortex soon to reign down. Try turning around your cabin fever with some meditation to feed your mind, soul and spirit! All you need is a quiet space and maybe a nice YouTube playlist to get you in the zone.

  7. 7. Journaling

    Image with pink, green and blue background featuring someone writing in an open, blank journal.

    Really a year-round activity like many others on the list, but this can be especially helpful for those affected by seasonal/mood disorders to reflect and ground. I’ve been journaling since the tenth grade, and after six years, I am currently on my 23rd journal! It’s such a rad experience to be able to concretely sift through all that history and personal growth, but journaling is also really good for me because I tend to express myself best through the written word. If that sounds like you, too, grab a booklet and pen from the dollar store and let it all out.

As Zandt so easily wraps up, “no single person can do all the kinds of care that are needed all the time [being self, community and structural]; we all play a role in supporting each other in different ways, though. Now, go forth and care for each other – and yourself.” Take care, Golden Hawks!