When you were a kid there were few things more exciting than a snow day. They were carefree days with nothing to do but play and laze about, wearing pajamas and sipping hot chocolate.
As adults some of that residual thrill remains, but after the first day of being cooped up inside the cabin fever sets in as does the self-imposed pressure to be productive.
If the weekend weather predictions for the East Coast are right, many people will spend multiple days trapped indoors. The expectation with newfound free time is to fill it with something “meaningful.” The structure of a normal day is upended, which can make some people anxious. So they try to game it out: I’ll finish that abandoned DIY project. Finally catch up on laundry. Get a jump start on next week’s work.
But what if instead we approached snow days like we did when we were kids — as an opportunity to just chill out and play?
A 2014 Harvard Business School research study found evidence that bad weather actually made people more productive at their jobs because they weren’t enticed by nice weather. When there was no allure to go outside, it was easier for workers to stay focused.
Given the propensity to be productive when stuck indoors, it makes sense to view a snow day as an opportunity to tackle our to-do list. And then ultimately feel disappointed with ourselves when we’ve instead wasted the day away binge watching Netflix.
“Way too often people place unnecessary pressure on themselves to perform or live up to a certain ideal, even on a snow day,” said Jonathan Alpert, a New York City psychotherapist and author of “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.”
“Rather than seeing it as knocking you off your game or slowing down progress at work, see it as an opportunity to rest, recharge, and work in a different capacity,” he said. “A snow day as an adult isn’t too different from a snow day as a kid — rejoice in it and celebrate.”
If you’re in a relationship, use the time to reconnect with your partner. Melissa Orlov, an expert in attention deficit disorder’s impact on relationships, said couples should give themselves permission to use the day to focus on being together. And if you’re not in a relationship, Orlov said, you can use the free time to reconnect with an old friend or family member you’ve been meaning to call.
It’s more difficult to have a luxurious day of doing nothing if you have children at home. But rather than getting stressed, Orlov said to try to tap into their excitement about the snow storm, and ride it with them.
“Say, ‘I’m going to be a little more zen and not worry if the house becomes a mess or the snow boots are everywhere’,” she said. “Just let it go, this is a little like a mini vacation.”
Norman Rosenthal, the psychiatrist who discovered seasonal affective disorder in the 1980s, said a snow storm is a “welcome respite from the drumbeat of the continual demands of winter.”
“Snow offers us opportunities,” he said. “It offers the ancient opportunities that winter provided of curling up, staying warm in your home, being with good company. These are really luxuries, but they weren’t luxuries for our ancestors — they created an environment that got them through the winter.”
For those who do struggle emotionally through the dark winter months, Rosenthal added that the afterglow of a snow storm, when the sun reflects off the whiteness, can be invigorating. Take a walk in it. Sled down a hill. Build a snowman.
Think of the days as nature’s way of giving you a break. Take it.
If you can (and apologies to all the electric company workers, snow removers, emergency room doctors and Washington Post local reporters) use this snowy weekend to recharge.
It’s also important to remember how challenging and life threatening a snow storm is for the homeless population. Here are ways to help the shelters who offer protection for those who don’t have a place to live: Donate items to your local homeless shelter before the blizzard hits.
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