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Outlook For Monday

By Hugh Joughin

Having trouble getting through the winter months ??

Having young children at home when it’s cold, dark, and wet outside for weeks on end can be a real drag, and can test any parents mettle.

Add to that the very high likelihood that, at this time of year, the family are sick, tired, and grumpy, you start to really count the days until the start of daylight saving.

There is clinical evidence that the seasons can affect peoples mood, mental state, and general wellbeing. There is even a name for it-seasonal affective disorder. But you needn’t dread the prospect of winter as the days start to shorten.

With that in mind, here then are a few quick practical tips that have helped me over the years. They have certainly helped me maintain mental equalibrium during the cold season. Take them or leave them, but if you find yourself struggling, give them a try.

1. Make your house warm.

This is possibly the most important one, particularly for Mainlanders. You’ve heard it and read it “ad nauseum”, but many houses are poorly heated and insulated (even though they may have plenty of street appeal).

There are heaps of things you can do cheaply, and if you aim to do one thing per year, the job not only becomes more achievable, but you can also spread the cost out even more.

(a) Condensation.

This used to drive me crazy, and badly affect my mood when it was really frosty. When there was a hard frost overnight, the windows would covered in ice, on the INSIDE ! A good solution is those window kits that you can get from the Community Energy Action Trust.

Generally you can outfit the whole house for between $100.00 – $150.00, and the job probably takes a good month of weekends. The kits use special double sided tape to fix the transparent film in place, but this tape tends to slip after a while.

I recommend using wooden beading to “frame” the panels of film, using screws to create a second window. It’s permanent (meaning little hands should stay away from the windows), and its very effective. After a while you don’t even notice it’s there, and the harder the frost the better the product seems to work.

(b) Cold floors.

Underfloor insulation installation is another job you can do yourself. The products out there are very good. Basically, it’s a choice between thick polystyrene type panels, or rolls of silver carpet like material.

This can be a grubby and unpleasant job, and again will take a good months worth of weekends at the most. But it really does keep the floor warm during winter.

(Did I mention that D.I.Y. is also good for the male soul, and is usually a good “male morale booster” ?). Community Energy Action is a good place to ask about this as well. With a community services card, you may well be entitled to large subsidies too, and they come and do the job.

(c) Heating.

These days there is a multitude of options. Generally, most three bedroom homes need two good sources of heating. A good idea is a log burner or similar in one end of the house (usually the lounge room area), and some other alternative form of heating (gas, night store, heat-pump) down the other end (usually encompassing the bedrooms).

Night-store heaters are particularly good in older houses, and you can pick up good second hand ones for around $300.00 or less. Make sure you get the most recent model you can afford.

Some kind of extractor fan in the kitchen is also a good idea, to stop the place steaming up while cooking. Again, you can pick up older second hand models fairly cheaply, and a good electrician can install them quite quickly at reasonable cost.

A great place to visit before you shell out any money is “The Energy Saving Centre” at 10 Lander Street, Papanui, telephone 352-4488. Open 11-6 Thursday to Tuesday, they have great resources, and people who offer independent advice relevant to the type of dwelling you live in.

Did I mention this is FREE ? Alternatively, contact your local council service centre.

(d) Ducting.

This is the next stage in home heating. It’s not absolutely necessary or high priority, so this job can be put on the back burner until you’ve got the money and/or time. Like under-floor insulation, this is one product that I definitely recommend that you buy new.

It’ll cost around $500.00 to duct the whole house, transferring heat from one room (usually the lounge room), to three other rooms (usually the bedrooms). Again, an electrician will need to install it (another $150.00 or so).

(e) Warm clothing.

Obvious right ? Well, as a former North Islander, it took me about five years to realise that T-shirts are just no good in Winter. I highly recommend saving a few dollars and getting along to the next Kathmandu sale, and investing in a really good jacket.

Or hunt around the second hand shops. As well as a decent jacket, a good hat or beanie, and wooly gloves are a must. With decent gear, there’s no reason why outdoor pursuits should suffer in winter.

2. Depressed?

As mentioned, there are a lot of people out there who are affected by the seasons. If you find that you tend to struggle mentally during winter, prepare yourself. You might need to budget throughout the year for some counselling sessions or doctors visits during this time.

There is no “quick fix” for longer term depression, but there are plenty of help options available. A place like Depression Support Network (366-8083) could be a good first contact point.

Website is www.mherc.org.nz or freephone 0800 424 399 nationwide, or visit your regular health provider.

3. Treat yourself.

With little kids, this is something that just gets neglected. But winter is the time when you have to do something for yourself and your partner (WITHOUT kids). Go out for breakfast (I recommend the casino, where they frequently have 2-for-1 deals), go to a movie, visit somewhere new.

It really doesn’t matter what you do, so long as it’s something enjoyable. Or maybe you need to have some time to yourself. The main thing is to make the effort and arrange it.

Christchurch has heaps and heaps going on over Winter, just keep an eye out for events, and read the newspapers. Much of it is free too, so there’s really no excuse.

4. Concession passes.

If you can afford it, plan ahead and try to free up some money and invest in a concession pass. In Christchurch, the Orana Park or Willowbank cards are particularly good ones, allowing unlimited visits for a fixed price. It may seem a lot at the time, but it’s worth its weight in gold during the Winter.

Pick a nice fine frosty day, and pack a picnic lunch. The kids LOVE it, and never seem to get sick of going. At Orana park, there’s a playground, free tractor carriage rides when little legs get tired, and of course the animals. Most centres around New Zealand have good deals, so keep your eyes open.

5. Celebrate winter.

Heard that phrase from that advertisement for roof spouting, “Falling in love with the rain” ? Well, believe it or not, it is possible to fall in love with winter. Seriously, I mean it ! People seem to love moaning about the cold weather.

So turn it around.

Have a little competition with your kids, to see how hard the frost can get, or how low the overnight temperature can get. Keep records, or make up little charts, and make a game out of the weather. If you have your house well insulated and heated, this makes it a whole lot easier.

If it snows, hold a little celebratory party. Fully embrace the extremes in weather.

6. Give up.

What I mean is, on really grotty days, keep the kids home from school, take the day off work if you can, stay in your pj’s all day, and just blob around home. Completely let the world pass you by for the day.

Unplug the phone, switch off the mobile, lock the computer away (so you can’t secretly check your emails), and take the batteries out of the doorbell.

Gorge out on whatever food you like, abandon all house rules, make a mess, whatever. Be a hibernating bear for the day. If bunking off is a problem, just do it on a day off, or on Saturday or Sunday.

You’ve got to be committed to the cause though. No car trips anywhere, no visitors. Use your imagination, and chiiiiill! Daylight saving will be with us again before you know it.

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