Case of the Winter Blahs?


Did you ever read The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster? (If not, you should, it’s truly excellent.) In it, Juster describes a place called "The Doldrums," where our little hero Milo gets briefly stuck; it’s colorless and bleak and populated by people called the "Lethargarians" who don’t do anything and you’re not allowed to think or laugh, and the intention is that everyone’s bored and miserable all the time. Now is it just us, or does that sound an awful lot like the month of February? Maybe it’s the hangover from New York Fashion Week or the ongoing international fashion tour, the endless parade of gray, cold days, or our sense memory of spring waiting around the corner, but something about the last few weeks of this month always feels harder. It may look short and deceptively svelte, but it dragged on. Sure, it's March now (Rabbit, Rabbit!) but the past few weeks have had their droopy, dull way with us: we feel decidedly lackluster, around these parts, and you know we love to feel lustrous! It’s the type of thing to make you turn to pills, right? No, not those kind of pills. Let’s get holistic with it—we’ve gathered some of our favorite, tried-and-true stress- and sadness- relieving methods (and don’t worry, not all of them are to be ingested) that helped lift our spirits and maintain our faith that spring is really just around the corner....we hope.

PLEASE NOTE: We are not medical professionals, though we love to talk with them. As with anything that you’re considering ingesting, you should check with a doctor to make sure it won’t mess with anything else that you’ve got going on (be that pregnancy, medications, disorders, etc). Please don’t sue us. We love you.

First off, get busy. Moving around helps you keep moving around. Remember our first NYE Resolution? Take care of yourself: eat right, and exercise! Get outside for at least 20 minutes a day; it has a serious and legitimate effect on your health. Desks are the devil! Do Mary Helen Bowers’ 15 minute at-home workout! There's a whole smattering of online options for workouts. Do Barry's Bootcamp, Nick's preferred poison. (They just opened a London studio!) You have no excuse.

Heard of Seasonal affective disorder? It’s a real thing. Even though, yes, it’s called SAD. Investigate Vitamin D supplements (the vitamin you’re missing from the sunshine you’re not getting, if you live anywhere near us), they can help with SAD and lots of other potential ailments, according to lots of research. So can light therapy (as in lighting, not as in "the opposite of heavy"), though we have yet to find a mood-boosting lamp that is not distractingly unattractive. If you have one, get at us. We need, like...five.

Muscle pain? Stiffness? Arnica (gel, or cream) is one of those things that you don’t believe will work at all until you try it, and it’s almost shocking because it does. SO WELL. Apply to any sore muscles, shoulders, etc., and watch the pain melt away. Alessandra slathers it on her joints post-ballet workouts (yes, joint pain, it even happens in your 20s) and swears by the stuff. It also helps with bruising. (By the way, why do shins get covered in bruises in the winter months? Maybe it’s being paler, more fragile...who knows.) Warm baths filled with Epsom salts sound similarly weird, but are sort of heavenly and take away any muscular aches, pains you've got going.

Plain old anxious? There are herbal supplements, but what about herbal refreshments (cue Tai from Clueless, please)? Alessandra swears by her favorite local tea spot, Physical GraffiTea, which offers one blend that includes Valerian root, peppermint, lemongrass, lemon balm, chamomile, French vervaine, green roobois, and fennel seed—and if that doesn’t relax you, well, not much will. We recommend drinking a cup o' chamomile (any organic brand will do) when you’re already in bed, because chances are you’ll sleep soon after ingesting, and solidly.

Skin looking as dull as you feel? You’d be surprised what a little at-home facial can do. Tammy Fender’s Epi-Peel is a purifying clay treatment that feels like a mask (apply and let it dry for five minutes) but refreshes your skin like a peel (splash with water and wash off in a circular motion). It uses natural ingredients such as Moroccan rosemary, spearmint, and clay, but it might as well be magic, because you’ll feel refreshed, enlivened, and, in our opinion, notably happier. For something you can do on-the-go (or at a much lower price-point), Yes to Grapefruit makes Exfoliating and Brightening Facial Towelettes that are 98% natural—all you got to do is swipe it around on your face. What cheers you up more than a happy, clear complexion? (Sure, sunshine wouldn’t hurt...)

Under the weather? Worried about being under the weather? Source Naturals sells something called ‘Wellness Formula,’ which, yes, is a creepily vague name, but two pills a day has helped protect some of us from being felled by the flu (during one of the worst flu seasons on record) or other wintry maladies (or so we think; others among us have relied on copious amounts of Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Soft Gels...and to them, Omega-3 pills are a Windex-like cure-all.) We don’t question the science, OK? We just trust.

Just relax, okay? Give yourself a facial massage—it’s stress-relieving, good for your lymphatic drainage system (so, good for you), and makes your skin glow like nobody’s business. Tatcha makes a Facial Massaging Crystal that you can heat up or chill in the freezer that we’re kind of obsessed with, but if you’re short on tools, you can still do it with your two hands and a cleansing oil of your choice (we like Tatcha’s Camellia Cleansing Oil or Shiseido’s Cleansing Oil). Follow along with a video for specific instructions (bordering on the very specific) if you like, but the whole thing involves a lot of sweeping, pressing, and rolling around like you’re worshiping your face, which, come to think of it, you should be doing more often. (You only get one.) Anyways, try feeling stressed after that. Hot tip: the skin between your thumb and forefinger holds a pressure point that helps relieve stress if you hold down on the muscle. Do that for at least a minute every day and you’ll thank us in a week.

Photographs by Elizabeth Brockway.

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  • ClosetCravings

    I love a good Clueless reference. Nerd fist pump.
    Satisfy Your Cravings For Celebrity Style and All Things Stylish and Sweet

    • ITGAlessandra

      Nerd fist pump returned. x

  • Lesley O.

    Love the tips - the cold, slushy grey days in Toronto are becoming too common! Bring on Spring!

    A new outfit post feat. my favourite neon bag (to brighten up winter) is up on Local & Opulent.

  • Molly

    Physical Graffitea!!! Love!!

    • ITGAlessandra

      Right?! It's the best. x

  • cliptogirl

    Yay! So glad you're talking about SAD. You're right, it's a very real disorder! But easily managed.

    My favorite lamp (that I have on right now!) is by Verilux. It's the smaller size that I hide behind my dresser on days that I'm not using it. It's $89, 12" by 4", and has amazing reviews on their site and on Amazon: It's suitable for everyday but especially for traveling (just get a quality converter). It's not ugly at all, and it's a very reasonable price and size (something small that will change your life for $89? buy it!). It's snowing outside right now, but my room looks very happy and bright!

    If you leave in very northern/southern locales, work somewhere with no windows, or generally just need a higher dosage of "daylight," I recommend their larger one: It's $189. I'd use it right now except I don't have enough room on my dresser. There is a palpable difference, however, between the two. You can, obviously, feel the effects of the larger one in a much shorter amount of time. In college, when I was using the larger one, I had it on while I put my skincare/makeup and clothes on in the morning (which would have been about 20-30 minutes).

    The best way to use these is to pick a place in your room/bathroom/kitchen/etc. in the morning where you will be relatively stationary for at least 15 minutes. This is because you need to be in front of it, about 10-20 inches away (depending what size you get). Most of us do this anyway in the morning, so it shouldn't be a problem.

    The effects: this is the best part. You don't realize how sad/lethargic/not yourself/heavy-feeling you were before until you start using this. Therapy lights like these are, when used consistently and correctly, proven to alleviate your symptoms of SAD. You will find yourself getting out of bed more easily in the morning, eating less food and therefore losing weight (people with SAD eat a lot more in the winter), and, more importantly, less depressed and back to your normal self!! This feeling is priceless. This light will me a miracle for anyone who struggles during the winter months, like myself.

    I hope this helps anyone curious about treating their SAD! And thanks ITG for this article! I've loved this blog since the very beginning :)

    Feel free to contact me with any more questions!

    • Shirin

      I think I'll need this for when I move to London! I'm from Australia so it's usually sunny in my part of the world but lately it's just rain rain rain and I'm really feeling it.

    • ITGAlessandra

      I AM DEFINITELY GOING TO LOOK INTO THIS! Thanks for sharing! xx

  • JTP

    This is the light lamp I've been using for the past few years. Very effective. And I like that the shape is a plain simple box:

  • Chantelle

    Wow, I'm going to tell my mother about that Arnica gel. It sounds heavenly for muscle pains. Thanks guys, this was such a useful post!

  • Taryn Kelley

    Another wonderful, informative article by ITG!

  • Kelly Jolie

    The Wellness pills definitely work! love them.


    Also Organic India's Holy Basil - great winter supplement

  • Glossy

    THANK YOU! I really was starting to go crazy being an LA native now living in Seattle, WA. This post was much needed! also, as for pretty "mood lighting" I adore my Himalayan salt rock crystal lamp!


The Phantom Tollbooth Anniversary Hardcover
Nordic Naturals
Nordic Naturals Omega-3 1000mg Soft Gels Lemon
Nature Made
Nature Made Vitamin D 1000 iu
Tatcha Pure: One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil
Yes to Grapefruit
Yes To Grapefruit Brightening Facial Towelette