There is no getting around it, this winter is going to be difficult. We are facing some dark days – literally and figuratively. 

Now is the time to stay home and embrace the suck. 

There’s nothing wrong with making the best of it while acknowledging how hard it all is. And of course – we’ve got plenty of ideas. 

Golden 2020 balloon


Call a local flower shop and order up the biggest helium balloons they have. Even better request a 2020 balloon (which might come with a sharp discount). Then beat the heck out of it. 

This is extremely cathartic. I got the idea after my children repurposed a birthday balloon delivery into a punching bags and happily joined in. 

Bonus: you’ll be giving a local business a nice boost. 


If you’re buying gifts for everyone on your list, be sure to put a few in the cart for yourself. Ever try an advent calendar? Why not get one on clearance and make up your own 24 day countdown? Our world has been flipped upside down. Gifting ourselves in until spring seems about right.


If it were any other year, early holiday decorators would be mocked along with those who leave it up passed early January. But this is not any other year. There is nothing stopping us from leaving our lights up until our clocks spring forward in March. 

String of purple hued light

It doesn’t matter what you celebrate. Get white lights and call it snow. Red for Valentine’s Day. Green for St. Patrick’s Day. Rainbow because it’s fun. Light is light, we all need a little more in our lives right now even if it is artificial. 


Light isn’t just for entertainment. Light therapy boxes can provide treatment for seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that occurs during fall and winter. It’s often attributed to shorter, drearier days. These lights, which mimic outdoor light, are easy to find online. As always, it’s best to consult your doctor before trying anything new.


Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a mood. It’s creating coziness through a warm atmosphere while enjoying the good things in life. Think candlelight and cuddling under a warm blanket. Hygge has Norwegian roots; the Hygge lifestyle is believed to help Norwegians enjoy their long, brutal winters. 

Transform your home into a winter retreat this year. Blankets, candles, good books, tea, hot cocoa, loads of pillows. Hygge isn’t just about stuff though, it’s a mindset. Allow yourself to relax. Put your phone down and actually watch a movie. Enjoy warm cookies straight from the oven without guilt. Utilize the darkness and mood lighting to ignore the mess and truly rejuvenate. Wrap yourself in a loving cocoon of self-care and hope that we can re-emerge in the spring with our loved ones healthy and unharmed. 


If we’re lucky enough to cozy up with a new book, see if friends are willing to read the same one and arrange a virtual book club. For grandparents missing their grandkids, put them on speaker and have them read a favorite book. Bonus if both reader and listener have a copy so the littles ones can follow along. 

Three women smiling and chatting on zoom.

We still need to socialize outside of our bubbles. Most of us are accustomed to zoom happy hours by now. Explore taking it up a notch with tasting menu. Cook the same items, pair it with wine or mocktails and talk about something other than the pandemic. 

Streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix are offering watch party options. Pick a show or movie and find a fun group to give it a try with. 


Get outside! The sunlight, the fresh air, the movement – all of it does wonders for our mind, body and soul. Don’t let the cold weather stop you. It’s all about how you dress


My 8-year-old really wanted to go camping for his November birthday. That wasn’t possible for many reasons. Rather than saying no, I rolled with it. I took my gang for a hike and had my husband set up an air mattress in the living room. All 3 of my children were upset with me as they realized we were going home and not to a campsite. However, when they walked inside they squealed with happiness. Who knew a blown up air mattress in the middle of the living room could bring such joy! 

Takeaway dinner by candlelight

Of course, there are more elaborate ways to stage a getaway at home. You could set up a tent, rent a moon bounce. Some companies even rent out hot tubs for a weekend. Do whatever you works for you to break up the monotony. 


After you get the kids set up with a camp out or a movie or anything that keeps them occupied for more than an hour, do something for yourself. Order delivery, light some candles, sneak away in your home to spend some time solo or with your partner. 


Bring your masks, pack a snack, fill a thermos, and hit the road! Cabin fever is real. UV Rays are good for you as is a little adventure. If weather permits, go somewhere you can move around outside. Or just drive through a town you’ve always wanted to check out.

If your kids are distance learning, why not change it up for a day and take school on the road? Cell phone hotspots can provide internet on the go, check with your provider.


December is all glittery and magical. Why not carry that over through spring? Surprise your children with messages written in marshmallows and say it must have been the winter fairy. Leave little heart shaped treats or toys and declare it was cupid. Make some mischief in March with green food coloring in the toilet or trails of coins on the floor and blame it on leprechauns. It’s all the fun of Elf on the Shelf without the ridiculous rules, rituals, and schedule. Bonus: you have an excuse for that last cookie being gone in the morning.


Early in this crisis, there were dreams of grandeur about reading the classics or learning to play the guitar. That’s all fine and dandy if you can swing it. But for those of us flailing with the day to day, it might help to focus on one thing that’s been nagging at us for a while. 

Toilet training, food aversions, reading, writing, identifying numbers, sight words, telling time, using money, stair climbing, folding clothes – the list could go on and on. These seemingly endless days, safe at home, give us a chance to work on life skills. Try to work on one thing and utilize the consistency of always being at home to try to make it stick. 


We are in the middle of a pandemic. Just getting through each day is enough. Stop with arbitrary rules and thinking about what you “should” do. “Shoulds” vary from person to person. Identify yours, think about how they affect you, then think about how you can give yourself more flexibility. 

Given that we are all going on a year of extreme circumstances, which for many of us comes on top of more than the average person is dealing with anyway, we really need to alter our expectations. “I should wake up early. I should be more organized. I should read more.” STOP The only thing we “should” be doing is giving ourselves a break. 


Deep breathing techniques are an easy, fast, effective way to feel better.  Try a few and find one that works for you. 

This is a great calming technique to teach children as well. There are fun ways to teach them how to do it. It’s a skill they will carry with them for lives.  


The Center for Family Involvement has staff and volunteers available to provide informational and emotional support. Reach out to our helpline and someone will get back to you within 24 hours. 

Call: (877) 567-1122 

Email cfihelpline@vcu.edu 

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