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Health

Winter Has Surprised Me for the Last Time

Confessions of a seasonal procrastinator who swears that this time, she will be prepared.

by Katie Way
Nov 22 2019, 12:00pm

Photo by Maskot via Getty Images

It’s that time of the year again: Winter. And like always, as trees shed their leaves and grow skeletal and the sun starts to set somewhere around 3:30 p.m. every day, whatever keeps my bodily processes in check begins to break down, and a vague haze of illness descends upon me. It starts with a scratchy, dried out nose and throat. Soon, I’ve got cracked lips, dry hands, and flaky face skin to match. Then, I develop a little sniffle I like to call a “perma-cold,” the omnipresent, low-grade bug that keeps my nose clogged and runny at the same time and makes my head throb. Finally, the season depression hits, and I finally realize why everything about my degraded physical condition is giving me déjà vu: I dealt with the exact same health problems last winter. And by “dealt with,” I mean “procrastinated on dealing with them until the weather warmed up and I started to feel better.”

The thing about seasonal illnesses and ailments is that they happen... every single year... because the seasons change. The predictability of this cycle is a double-edged sword. Hypothetically, the fact that the body begins rebelling like clockwork should leave a person better prepared to deal when the time comes. In reality, fools like me who take too long to decide between virtually identical lotions get to shrug off our suffering because we know relief is on the horizon. Putting off making a choice within a specific window of time—like, say, deciding which light therapy lamp to buy—is apparently called decisional procrastination, one of the three main categories of procrastination. (The other two are avoidant and behavioral, if you’re curious.)

The choice to stall on choosing anything is often enabled by the suffocating number of options there are for almost every conceivable product. You shouldn’t just buy lip balm, you should buy the French lip balm Angelina Jolie wore on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Except, wait… What about the Korean lip mask that Redditors are literally obsessed with? Or the cult lip scrub that Kaia Gerber literally flew to Japan to purchase in bulk? I, for one, am extremely susceptible to the belief that the Perfect Product could fix my life (ha!). The thing is, all of these options represent objectively simple solutions to a sicko’s winter woes, and making the “wrong” decision isn’t the end of the world.

Winter also always drags on for a solid six or seven weeks longer than I expect it to. I’m no meteorologist, but if there’s still slush on the ground and teeny dogs still need sweaters, it’s still winter... even if it’s late March. So, this year, I am ending the madness and dealing with my winter-related health problems once and for all, and I’m doing it early. As the temperature dips and the skin between my fingers starts to get gross and dry, I promise myself that I will:

  1. Buy a humidifier, and some kind of tray to go under it, because apparently these things are leaky as hell.

  2. Keep a bottle of hand lotion at my desk, the place I have historically looked at, if not used, my hands the most.

  3. Drink some Emergen-C when I feel the perma-cold begin to creep in, even though its immune-boosting claims may be a little exaggerated.

  4. Buy a new lip balm instead of waiting until I go to the dentist, a car dealership, or some kind of PR event where it’s given away for free.

  5. Pick any thick moisturizer with humectant ingredients from Sephora and buy a full-sized bottle. If I don’t like it, that’s OK; Sephora lets you return products even if you’ve already opened them. (I once impulse-bought mousse that’s supposed to make hair look “dirty,” got pissed because it worked, and took it back two days later.)

I didn’t even have to look anything up to write that list! I already know all of these things exist, and it’s ridiculous that I haven’t done all of them already. Dealing with this stuff kind of like a lifehack, if being responsible on a base level can be viewed as such. Helping myself now will also help me in the future when, again, all of the exact same issues come up. Mind-blowing! It is a fundamentally bad idea to not take care of yourself when you have the resources to do so. Performing the routine maintenance that goes into having a body has essentially no drawbacks. Decisional procrastination might feel good now, but it will inevitably cause you more stress and anxiety in the long run. That ought to go nicely with respiratory discomfort, fatigue, and accelerated snot production, no?

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Tagged:
winter
seasonal affective disorder
procrastination
common cold
The Paradox of Choice
dry skin