Days have become darker in Copenhagen way sooner than I anticipated and I have slowly started feeling the winter blues hovering over me. Physically, waking up in the morning has become a challenge.
Temperatures fell, leaving me feeling more sluggish and tired. I started feeling the hunger kick in more often throughout the day, my skin becoming dull. I started eating vitamin D again, although I am not sure how well it is working.
I have also started feeling lethargic towards my daily tasks and feeling unmotivated even though my workload has not drastically increased. I procrastinate until I cannot procrastinate any longer, then I feel the anxiety and guilt settling in my bowels.
I have adjusted my routine to slow down, set fewer goals and go to bed relatively early. I have been going out a lot less, spending more and more time alone while knowing that I should perhaps meet friends at least at the weekends.
Then I also found myself struggling to find any clothes that I like to wear in my closet that are not black or gray. The overall outlook of my life was suddenly unsatisfactory and dull, lacking creativity and excitement. And I think this happens to me every fall. It is almost as if I am synched with nature.
The leaves are falling, and I am winter sad. And as this was all I could think about recently, it was also all I could write about.
While acknowledging that it is part of the very human experience to feel a certain way this time of the year, I also realize that what makes it more intense for me this year as well as the past year is the fact that I live in Copenhagen.
This is not to say Copenhagen is the reason behind the dullness in my life. In fact, I am particularly fond of my life in Copenhagen.
However, this does not mean that my life is always entirely perfect. On the contrary, I have come to realize that despite all the fever around the winter hygge (pronounced hoo-gah), the winters in this city are the toughest times for me.
I don’t mean just the obvious weather component playing an enormous role in my physical and mental well-being.
Danes come off to me as more reserved and they tend to go home after lectures or work and stick to the friends or boyfriends they already have
I find living in Copenhagen so isolating at times, especially in the wintertime.
While everyone’s experience is different, moving to Copenhagen from a dynamic city like Seoul has made me realize how important it is to establish and maintain a social circle.
When in Seoul, it was natural to spontaneously go to a bar or a restaurant and meet new people.
And I naturally had a larger circle of friends, and friends of friends. I wanted to be alone when I felt the need, but I was not lonely.
However, in Copenhagen, I find it rather more challenging to meet new people and commit to existing friendships. Danes come off to me as more reserved and they tend to go home after lectures or work and stick to the friends or boyfriends they already have.
And to spend time out, you almost always need some kind of reservation and planning ahead, which does not always work for me, forcing me to improvise on what I can do to while my time away. Pondering ways to cope with my ever-worsening winter blues, I have come up with some ideas to help me settle in with the wintered pace of life.
First, I started adjusting my daily routine to winter. While I am aware that this is an unhealthy pattern of thought, most of the time, my mood relies on how productive my day is.
I have a list of responsibilities to fulfill, where my colleagues at work and school rely on me. At the same time, I have a routine of my own. And given my energy levels on both the physical and mental fronts are stagnating, at times I find myself in the never-ending loop of procrastination.
So, I decided to set smaller goals for my day. Instead of working out for half an hour, I decided to do fifteen-minute workouts.
I realized that even when I do not necessarily have plans or I go out only for a stroll, getting ready and putting some nice clothes on helps me feel more inspired about my day
Likewise, I have split my workload for my reports, focusing on only single sections a day and alternating between different tasks to keep myself alert enough without feeling overwhelmed or bored.
Working on smaller tasks somehow fed me with a false sense of accomplishment and worked on me like a placebo pill, which in turn helped me stay consistent with getting things done. And this was an important step for me because I wanted to hold myself accountable.
Then I also started going for short walks to get takeaway coffee and a bun in the mornings to pull myself out of my drowsy state. Taking different routes each time. Tagging along with a friend for a late afternoon stroll at Frederiksberg Gardens on the days I otherwise spent home all day.
I realized that even when I do not necessarily have plans or I go out only for a stroll, getting ready and putting some nice clothes on helps me feel more inspired about my day. And I also went back to reading physical books again instead of the eBooks I have on my phone.
I cannot believe how I can forget this each time, but I think it is almost magical to remember that you can pore over a book without feeling the need to look at your phone sometimes. Being able to maintain your focus on one thing without being interrupted by someone’s message or call or an intrusive thought.
It also helped me get into the flow with my creativity and writing. Then I decided to eat fuller, homemade meals, and go to bed a tad bit earlier but I still struggle to manage either.
I sometimes go to bed after midnight, making me feel dozy the next morning. And more often than not, I find myself fetching a three pm breakfast.
Especially, on the days I am home alone.
Finally, Copenhagen has many restaurants, cafés, and bars I have been wanting to try but have not yet had a chance.
So, the last adjustment I am attempting is to make sure that I go out with a friend at least once or twice a week and try out a new restaurant or a new bar. I have found this is a way for me to stay connected with my people as well as with the city itself because, as challenging as it can be, I am aware that Copenhagen also has its winter charms.
And after all, it is cozier with good company.