Between the postholiday letdown, cold weather, and midafternoon sunsets, you're aching for a tropical beach somewhere (or at least a sunny day). "By February, it seems like there's nothing to look forward to, and people aren't feeling well emotionally and physically because of that," says Debbie Mandel, a stress-management specialist and author of Turn On Your Inner Light (Busy Bee, 2003). She suggests three ways to break out of your midwinter rut.
Get moving. Drab weather seems like a good excuse to abandon your workout routine. But even simple exercises, like doing push-ups off your kitchen counter or chair squats during Grey's Anatomy, release the endorphins that reduce stress and help you feel happier. "If you have even 20 minutes to exercise, you're going to feel a lot better," says Mandel. And because exercise raises your body temperature, you may actually find taking a brisk walk outside invigorating instead of chilling.
Simplify your space. It's too early for spring cleaning, but sorting through piled-up paperwork and donating unwanted holiday gifts make your home feel airier. Getting organized lifts your spirits by helping you feel centered and more in control of your life. "I might only declutter a drawer," says Mandel, "but if it's a cold, nasty day, it's very inspiring."
Bundle up and hunker down. The shorter, colder days of winter are nature's way of getting us to unwind. So ease into the natural rhythms of the season—and your own body—by moving your bedtime up an hour. Need help relaxing? Brew a mug of hot chocolate or chamomile tea. "I like to drink hot liquids because you can't gulp them, you have to sip them," says Mandel. "It reminds me to slow down."