This year has already thrown its challenges - mentally, physically, emotionally. Winter is tough for me. Consistently, persistently, really difficult. I get discouraged more easily during this time of the year, fall into laziness more often than usual. I feel more vulnerable in winter. I cry more often, at real sad things and at dumb things, like the ending of La La Land. My worries grow bigger in the winter. I worry about finishing things on time. I worry about trying to do too much, and at the same time, not doing enough at all. I worry about appearances and how I come across to others. I wonder whether what I do is worth it. Every winter.
Change is hard. Changing yourself is probably one of the most difficult things you can try. Especially when it comes to changing a mindset. Sometimes I am frustrated that I can't always snap out of my funks within minutes of getting into it. I can't tell you I've got it all figured out. But I've learned a few important things after years of having the winter blues. The first is to slow down. A lot of times when I'm starting to feel bad, it's more than likely because I feel overwhelmed. My mind is one that runs a mile a minute, like I'm peddling a bike at full speed and my surroundings are whirling around me. So then I have to hit the brakes, and ask myself why I'm feeling overwhelmed. I might sound like a crazy person here - but a lot of times I talk to myself. I voice what's bothering me. If I can get it into a physical form, a sound, words, a conversation, I feel less flustered.
The second is to let yourself feel what you are feeling. If you want to cry, cry. If you want to take a break, go for it. I think a lot of us feel foolish when we get emotional. I find myself apologizing a lot more when I cry or feel down. But we should not feel like our feelings are wrong. No one ever said that you can't be sad. Or upset. Or frustrated. So rather than brushing it away, acknowledge it. But then - and this is the third thing - don't dwell. I'm still working on this part. A lot of times I sit on my pile of self pity or anger. But I'm slowly learning to just let my emotions happen and then pass. Because when I do dwell, I use up all my mental energy and feel exhausted. Instead, I try to go on a run, or go out to dinner with a couple friends, or bake a batch of cookies. It takes a little bit of effort that can be hard to find. But if I let myself move on, I end up feeling more refreshed. I The winter blues feel a little less harsh. I'm not saying this method is for everyone, but it's certainly helped me out, and if it helps you out, then I hope to find you with a little more energy for the remainder of the winter days (thankfully, not too many left).
I suppose the final thing I normally do when I find myself feeling gloomy is to find a friend - often times Andrew, lots of times my co-residents, sometimes even just a phone call or a text. People who will put their life down for a second and sit and listen to you, with you. They can offer up new ideas and new perspectives. So in that line of thought - what do you do to help get you out of your winter funk? I'd love to hear what you think.
My moody post is accompanied by some moody photos of chocolate chunk cookies - filled with chopped crystallized ginger, sweet, salty macadamia nuts, and pools of bittersweet chocolate. It's one of those desserts that feel comfortable, perfect when warm from the oven and just enough for the end of your day. They're adapted from Tara O'Brady's cookbook, whose chocolate chip cookies are one of my favorites (and quickly becoming the residents' favorite cookies, too).
Stay warm, friends.
Chocolate chunk cookies with crystallized ginger and macadamia nuts, adapted from Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies from Tara O'Brady's cookbook, Seven Spoons
- 1 cup unsalted butter, chopped
- 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chopped
- 1 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
- 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
- Flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top
- Preheat an oven to 360 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
- In a medium saucepan over the lowest heat possible, melt the butter. Try not to get any sizzles, crackles, or pops - you don't want to lose moisture in the butter.
- In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, and ground ginger. Set aside.
- In another large bowl, pour the melted butter and whisk in the sugars until the mixture relaxes. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
- Using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, stir in the dry ingredients. Once mostly blended, fold the chocolate, nuts, and crystallized ginger into the dough until the remaining flour is incorporated. Try not to overmix!
- Place in the fridge for 15 minutes. Using a medium cookie scoop place onto the prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart (you can fit 6-8 on the sheet normally). Slightly flatten to 1 inch thick. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake until the tops are cracked and golden, about 12 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the pan for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough, making sure to use a room temperature sheet pan for each batch.
- The cookies can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Enjoy with a cup of hot tea or coffee.