Winter scene

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Parties! Inspirational speeches! Michelle Obama's wardrobe changes! 2009 started with a bang. But 600,000 jobs have been lost since New Year's, and, oh yeah: it's freezing. Suddenly, we're stranded in...February? Whether you're struggling with finances or just suffering from an unexplainable case of the blahs, we've found four surprising ways to survive the mid-winter malaise.

—Jessica Adamiak
Bowl of soup

Photo:© 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Find Something You Like to Do in the Cold—and Cling to It for Dear Life
Kansas Public Radio host Laura Lorson is a Kentucky native, and even though she's lived in Perry, Kansas for 12 years, she has never adjusted to its long winters characterized by "thunder-snow, regular snow, sleet, rain, and mud up to your truck axles." In a commentary for National Public Radio's show All Things Considered, she dubbed the worst part of the season "JanuFeb" and declared, "It may as well come with a warning sign on the calendar that says, 'abandon hope all ye who enter here.'"

We were intrigued, so we asked her to elaborate and discovered her coping mechanism: cooking. "I don't cook a lot in the summer because, frankly, it's just too hot," Laura says. "But anytime I feel really grumpy about winter I'm like, 'Hey—I'll make a braise. Let's stay home, buckle up, and eat meat!'"

Need a recipe? Start with 8 heart-soothing soups book club

Photo: Courtesy of - South Orange County Book Club Meetup

Party Like It's December
Playing it low-key—Friday night, bad television, possibly with a bag of honey-mustard pretzels by your side—is a good escape from the cold, but it's easy to cross the line from relaxation into hibernation. Enter, the community bulletin board on steroids. If you’ve heard about it, but haven’t yet explored the website, you’re likely to find a group that interests you. Members can form or join groups based on any conceivable common interest, from watching classic movies to speaking Japanese. Thousands of them get together every single day, according to Andres Glusman, Meetup's Vice President of Insights and Strategy. "But our memberships actually spike 30% every single winter." So you'll have plenty of company while you fend off listlessness.
Woman in gym

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Get Physical
"Move. Your. Body," says Jen O'Brien, a 31-year-old bike messenger in Boston, one city notorious for its frigid temperatures and crazy drivers. "You need to put up with things like frozen wet feet for nine hours at a time and windburn on your face—but it's fun." In college, her roommate was a messenger, but Jen was overweight and didn't think she could ever do the job. "I couldn’t run two blocks to save my life," she says.

Eventually, though, Jen started commuting to work on a bike. The trip only took 20 minutes one way, but she started looking—and feeling—healthier. "I really didn't need to kill myself. I just need to do something repeatedly...only after becoming an active person did I know how great it feels to be in decent shape." So don't worry about following a super-structured exercise regimen or a gimmicky tape you ordered from an infomercial during a late-night moment of weakness. Just shake that cement out of your bones.

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Whip Your Finances into Shape
Not only is it seemingly always dark outside—it's that special time of year when holiday credit cards bills start rolling in, rapid-fire. And while a couple years ago you may have regretted buying a quesadilla maker for your cousin’s-boyfriend’s-best friend, it's even scarier to face your debt in the midst of a recession. You know you need to pay it off, but then what? We went back to some of Suze's best advice for advanced debt-control. She says to keep newly paid off accounts open but inactive. "About 30 percent of your credit rating (FICO score) is based on your debt-to-credit ratio," she explains. Closing the accounts will reduce your amount of available credit and hurt your FICO score.

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