Audrey Fraizer

Audrey Fraizer

Story Vault

By Audrey Fraizer

So, what causes you stress?

For me, the coming of winter is a stressor and although that may sound rather shallow—considering the really horrific stuff to pick from—it’s a time of year that requires a concentrated effort to think positively.

This winter’s outlook—and I took my first peek at the Farmers’ Almanac forecast way back in July—is calling for the “Days of Shivery.” Below-normal temperatures will cut a frigid swathe through states east of the Continental Divide to the Appalachians, north and east through New England. The coldest temperatures will be over the Northern Plains on east into the Great Lakes. Over the roughly identical areas the Midwest and the Great Lakes, Farmers’ Almanac weather seer “Caleb” predicts lots of snow.

I’m originally from the Midwest and somehow survived 27 bone-chilling winters before moving west of the Rockies to the high desert country. Chicago’s cold chases to the soul and, once fixed, settles in until the spring thaw. Going outside means bundling and layering, particularly if standing at the edge of Lake Michigan watching huge waves push to shore. Now that’s something to see.

That brings me back to the initial question. What do you do for stress?

It’s taken me a long time, but after more than a half century on this planet, with cumulative months of winter adding up to a quarter of that time, I realize attitude and spinning a negative perspective can turn a stressor into something tolerable. Take the waves off Lake Michigan, for example. They are captivating to watch, reminding me of sitting at an ocean shore and waiting for Godzilla to appear. Any given wind speed builds higher waves in the winter, and these cliff-like waves average about 4 to 8 feet high, although waves of 18 feet or greater are not unusual.

This is one of the contrasts between the Midwest and West: water cliffs vs. rock cliffs—but they both offer a way to reconnect.

Mountains rimming Salt Lake City provide an ideal winter stress buster, and the dry air does seal our reputation for champagne snow. Our Rocky Mountain light, dry snow makes tough packing for snowballs and snowmen but what it lacks in water content creates a skier’s and snowboarder’s equivalent to a surfer’s perfect wave.

While Chicago obviously falls short of what it takes for great winter downhill skiing—appreciable land elevation and a dry climate—that doesn’t confine the season’s board time to golf courses or nature preserves. Strong winds hitting Lake Michigan in the right direction create ideal surfing waves. Some say winter is the best season for putting the surfboard to water.

Surfing in temperatures below freezing might not be everyone’s idea for reducing stress; however, viewing those who do could just be the few minutes of reprieve you need in your day to relax (catch a fabulous slow motion video at vimeo.com/52593988)