Winter Woes

With the gradual shedding of leaves that autumn brings, and the eventual onset of winter, for many, the happiness that once felt so natural in the heat of summer, suddenly can seem unattainable.

Winter can be tough to combat emotionally; the sun sets much earlier, and the cold temperatures and bothersome wintry precipitation put a dent in almost every plan. Or cause you to not want to make any in the first place.

For many, winter is synonymous with isolation and depression. There actually is a name for it – seasonal affective disorder, which ironically produces the acronym SAD. It is a disorder that many people, at least those who inhabit locations on this planet which experience wintry conditions, suffer from.

But the reality is, that although you may not be able to afford to jump on the next flight to Hawaii or some other exotic paradise, there are other small ways to attempt to improve the drab, melancholy, confining winter season. These are a few of my own personal practices that I have found help me – perhaps they can help you, too. (This of course won’t apply to everyone – perhaps you enjoy winter!)

1. To start, I’ll mention what is likely an obvious item on such a list: books. What was that book you wanted to read this summer, but found yourself so busy outdoors, that you ultimately forgot about and didn’t have time to read, or care to? Many cite summer as a great time to read, but honestly, winter seems more logical, as we find ourselves detached from the rest of the real world due to snow why not inject ourselves mentally into another world – that of a book? The possibilities are endless, after all; read about “How to Land a Top-Paying Perogi Makers Job” (yeah, it exists) or, you know, something more commercial, like “Enders Game” or “Gone Girl.”

2. Tea, yoga, meditation and music. These things, I have discovered, help make all things right with the world, whether it’s summer or winter. And they’re so simple and accessible. Perhaps you have to go buy the tea, but the rest, if you have access to a computer and an Internet connection, are easy to find.

Tea – Tea is ridiculously therapeutic. I had no idea of its real benefits, or just how many types there are, but as someone who has anxiety – people were always telling me to try tea. Even my doctor. But think about it, human beings have been drinking tea as a remedy for thousands of years. After that long of documented health improvements and substantiation, I suppose it has to be real. (I’m drinking Yogi brand tea at the moment of writing, the “Honey Lavender Stress Relief” kind, which, according to the box, helps to calm and ease tension.) Time Magazine posted a list, “13 Reasons Tea Is Good For You” that I found really enlightening. Google it.

Yoga – Don’t be stop reading just yet. You don’t need to go to a class or gym. You don’t even need a mat (although it’s nicer to have one). Just the will to open your mind to try it. Visit for thousands of follow-along yoga videos. Find one that works for you and give it a shot. Like tea, the benefits of yoga for your body are well-documented. Studies have shown that those who practice yoga regularly even age slower, in addition to the calming effects it produces.

Meditation – Sort of like yoga, meditation has a stigma, like it’s some magical practice that only buddhists practice.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth, however. People of all backgrounds practice meditation, and in the past year, I have as well. A staunch skeptic of what is sort of labelled as “spiritual” practices previously, I gave it a try – proven wrong. Research has shown that meditation literally lowers stress on a biological level. Find a peaceful spot, sit down, close your eyes and try to clear your head. YouTube search “meditation music” if you want. You also can find guided meditation sessions on YouTube.

Music – All of these things, I almost always do with music. But the thing is, there actually is music out there designed to calm you down or change how you feel. So turn off that Top 40 music and open your mind to other genres. Rock ‘n’ roll, punk, etc., are fun to listen to, but not exactly intended to be relaxing or uplifting. has playlists made for different moods and activities, like chilling out; sitting by the fire; jazz for reading (what I’m listening to as I write this); cinematic soundscapes; and many more. I never liked jazz. Or seeked out jazz, rather. I guess I appreciated it before, but once I opened my mind to other genres for relaxation, I found myself zoning out, totally calm while listening to the beautiful, whimsical playing of the piano on a smooth jazz station, while drinking some hot tea. In that kind of state, you would almost have to try to be depressed, sad or anxious.

3. I know it sounds crazy, but even just once, after it snows, try going outside for a short walk. As many issues and danger as snow perpetuates, it really is a beautiful sight, when fresh and untainted. Have you ever wandered out into the forest after a fresh snow? I often like to venture out in these conditions to take photos, as it is some of the most magical, scenic and serene moments I’ve experienced. Totally white and pristine, maybe a few prints in the snow from wild animals and the way the snow lays on the still-evergreens – breathtaking. And the feeling of coming in after a long walk in the cold and cozying up, not many other times of the year can make you feel that way.

4. It’s the small things that matter, I’ve realized too, when there’s not much I can do about something as unavoidable as an entire winter season. I bought a little bonsai tree and another plant for my desk at work. But I didn’t just buy them for decoration; these thriving plants emanate a sort of peaceful, calming energy, and tending to them keeps me occupied.

5. As a last sort of “tip” to help combat the winter blues, make sure your work and living space are clean and organized. When you’re spending more time in your home during winter, and you’re dwelling in a mess, you’re likely to feel like a mess, too. Something as simple as cleaning and organizing your living quarters and-or work space can make you feel much better about yourself and your life. And it’s something to do.

While some of these things might not be for you, don’t dismiss them until you have given them a try. But ultimately, we are in control of our own happiness.

Winter woes


Pocono Record

STROUDSBURG (AP) – Winter can be tough, especially on private property, and no one knows that better than Stroud Township resident Pamela Wnuk.

She says her property sustained damage after a municipal snowplow driver tore apart the entire length of road at the front of her residence last month.

“The plow went so far into my property that it not only tore up the road lip but also took part of my lawn,” she said. “Any closer and the plow would have taken down two pine trees.”

The incident marked the second time in four years that a municipal snowplow caused damage to Wnuk’s home, she said. After the first incident in 2009, Wnuk said township officials paid to repair the damage. She’s seeking remuneration for last month’s incident.

Messages left for Stroud supervisors were not returned. However, according to the township’s ordinance, residents are asked to wait until the snowplows have made two or three passes before clearing snow from the end of their driveways.

Mailboxes often are the first objects damaged because of snowplows, and the ordinance notes that the township isn’t responsible for digging them out if they are covered with snow.

The damage to Wnuk’s property isn’t unique and, depending upon the situation, the municipality or the resident’s homeowner’s insurance company should cover the cost of damages, officials said.

“It also depends on the definition of damage,” said Cathryn Thomas, borough manager in Stroudsburg.

“Was something on the person’s property in the right of way? Where one municipality may have a policy that covers damage, it is a case-by-case issue,” said Thomas, who noted that residents also must take care to clear areas of objects that could impede snowplows.

“The individuals who go out and plow work hard and long hours,” Thomas said. “The residents really have no idea what they face. We’ve had a plow out of service because it ran over a baking sheet, which destroyed the plow, and we’ve had a plow run over a rug that was buried in the snow in which someone left out, so the plow sat for a while, and residents complained that snow removal wasn’t fast enough.”

Also, while most homeowner’s insurance policies do cover damages, it may not pay for residents to make a claim.

“There are endorsements in Pennsylvania which allow you to make a claim, but

that is, of course, subject to your deductible,” said Dave Phillips, a spokesman for State Farm insurance. “But if the plowing is done by a mom and pop company or some friend or individual, than there may be small business insurance claims that could be made against them. It’s safe to say, though, that if you have insurance, you are covered, but it’s likely going to be shy of policy limits and deductibles.”

Phillips said most municipalities also are protected from liability claims, in part, because they are performing taxpayer-funded duties.

Officials at the Insurance Information Institute said coverage in Pennsylvania for homeowners would include damage done by snowplows but, like Phillips, they said the cost of the deductible in the average policy would probably outweigh the claim.

Officials from Tobyhanna Township, Pocono Township and others said there are standing ordinances regarding damages to property caused by municipal snowplows.

Pocono Township officials have encouraged residents to place their mailboxes 4 feet from roadways and to inspect them and other property to be assured that they’re sturdy and in good repair.

Residents whose property abuts township roads are reminded not to place any type of private property, including landscaping shrubbery, fences, light posts or mailboxes, in the right of way, according to the Tobyhanna ordinance, which also notes that the township is not responsible for any damage caused by road maintenance or snowplowing to any private property located in the right of way.

“The snowplow blades on most of the trucks are 12 feet in width and just under five feet in height, which creates a great deal of force when plowing the snow,” said Phyllis Haase, township manager and emergency management coordinator for Tobyhanna Township. “This is certainly a topic that will be part of many a conversation from now until the warm weather returns.”