The Psychology Behind a Snow Day

Family making snow angelsI used to have this goal for my life in which I would eventually get to a place where I loved school or my job so much that I didn’t desperately hope for a snow day during the long winter months. In the past, I would obsessively check the weather forecasts looking for signs of enough snow that school or work would be called off. I had difficulty sleeping the evening before a forecast indicating such a possibility. I would get up and look out the window throughout the night to check if the pace of accumulation was quick enough to cause administrators to foresee a “snowpocalypse,” make the right call, and cancel all school and work activities. My emotions felt as if they were at the mercy of the snow, which is indeed an unreasonable thing to allow oneself to be controlled by. Did I just hate school or work that much, or was there something less dramatic and more innocent going on?

Often, a snow day is a child’s dream come true. Depending on where you are in the world, it may be quite common, or it’s possible you’ve never even heard of a snow day if you live in a climate that is warm and mild. I grew up in Texas, where, unprepared for winter weather, school was called off for a bit of frost on the ground. When that happened, I’d spend my day in the front yard trying to scoop up ice particles from the driveway to make the world’s tiniest snowman (which was usually an epic fail). In much of the country, snow is commonplace during winter and schools build snow days into their calendars to account for bad weather or unsafe travel conditions.

For those who live in states where snow is relatively common, does anyone other than me still experience the frenzied excitement of snow and, with it, the possibility of playing hooky?

I’m guessing I’m not alone here. Snow days are interruptions to our routines, which may be a rare occurrence for some. Although some may not appreciate the disruption, for many of us, the monotony of responsibilities, the “to-do” lists that never get done, the expectation that work comes first, and the pressure of being “on” at all times leaves us desperate for an unexpected reason to let it go. We go to work sick, or we stay up too late getting ahead on projects because our workloads exceed the 40 allotted hours. If we are sick and manage to stay home, we work from home because technology says we can.

Snow days provide a great opportunity for a break because we can’t control Mother Nature. It isn’t our failing immune system (somehow our fault) or the failing immune systems of our families. It isn’t our lack of being a “team player.” It isn’t a situation in which our colleagues question whether we drank too much last night and that’s the real reason we can’t come to work. We have something tangible that everyone can bear witness to. When a snow day is called, the city is frozen and we all know it. No one can reasonably leave home without significant risk, and it isn’t our fault.

We look forward to days like this because we need them. We need moments in which we aren’t in charge. We need moments where we can let go and allow something larger than ourselves to give us a break. As a population, we don’t do this enough. We work longer and longer hours, we multitask ourselves into the ground, we do chores on our days off, we engage in endless errands to help make our lives run more smoothly, and we make appointment after appointment after appointment.

We need moments where we can let go and allow something larger than ourselves to give us a break. As a population, we don’t do this enough. We work longer and longer hours, we multitask ourselves into the ground, we do chores on our days off, we engage in endless errands to help make our lives run more smoothly, and we make appointment after appointment after appointment.It can be difficult to take a break and do nothing, which is often forced when a snow day occurs. We may be sick from stress, but it doesn’t often make us quit doing. We may be exhausted and disconnected from those we love due to the demands of our busy schedules, but we may perceive that the world would fall apart if we don’t keep going. On the other hand, a snow day cannot be negotiated with. The blanket of white quiets the world and says, “Stop!” We can’t get out of the house to run errands, so we cook what we have in the cupboard, play board games if the cable goes out, and sleep when we’re tired. We are often forced to just relax.

If you’re like me, peeking out the window all night and imploring the sky to save you from your busy schedule tomorrow, maybe it isn’t so much that you’re being silly or that you hate your job or hate school or you can’t get a grip on your emotions. It could just be your body and mind telling you that you need a break. I don’t necessarily want to get to a place in my life where I don’t long for breaks in the form of an unexpected snow day. Days like that help us remain grounded, healthy, and sharp. We need days where we can relax, even if we’re forced, and allow the world to run without us. We need moments that allow us to reconnect with the feeling of quiet contentment and recognize that what we have around us in this moment is enough for this moment. It isn’t likely that everything will fall apart in our absence, but perhaps more likely that everything may fall back into place.

Let it snow.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Mallory Langston, LPC, therapist in Columbia, Missouri

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Adrianna

    Adrianna

    January 27th, 2016 at 11:27 AM

    snow day= no pay for me
    don’t like the forced vacation with no pay

  • Erin

    Erin

    January 27th, 2016 at 12:41 PM

    Very insightful!

  • Teddy

    Teddy

    January 27th, 2016 at 2:51 PM

    I love a good snow day, and the kids do too! It can be a much needed break after you have gotten the new year up and rolling, and who doesn’t like having that time to just enjoy being a kid all over again? I know it can be a hardship financially for some, and I do not make small potatoes about that, but come on, enjoy the beauty and the quiet and when the plows come through we can all get back to some semblance of normal.

  • hank

    hank

    January 28th, 2016 at 6:52 AM

    Well we live up north so there is no real thing like a snow day for us, because if we took a snow day the we would have to shut down for the winter!
    But I see what you are saying, take it as time to enjoy the beauty and the magic that nature can bring. Look at it as something a little more magical, like you would have looked at it as a child, and not like we tend to look at it as an inconvenience as an adult.

  • jeannie

    jeannie

    January 28th, 2016 at 11:47 AM

    Always sort of felt like a bit of that forbidden fruit to me
    in a good way

  • Mandi

    Mandi

    January 28th, 2016 at 1:48 PM

    I DO need a “snow day”!! You are too right, and I am upset that it is going to be in the 60s in Missouri IN FEBRUARY!!! Maybe I should listen and just take a day off 👏

  • daniel P

    daniel P

    January 29th, 2016 at 7:47 AM

    It is nice to get that day off and not have to worry about some lame excuse or thinking that there will be someone who won’t believe your story.
    It’s a snow day, everyone is having to take it

  • Dylan

    Dylan

    January 30th, 2016 at 6:34 AM

    I try to make a point to look beyond the inconvenience that this could be placing on me and see it more through the eyes of my children.
    I want to make those memories and make those special times that they will always remember, and if that means missing a day of work for me or not being able to get out of the house for a bit, then so be it, make those times good times.

  • spratt

    spratt

    January 30th, 2016 at 6:25 PM

    Seems like it should be time for another.

  • don

    don

    January 31st, 2016 at 7:09 AM

    This really did make a profound and I hope lasting impression on me.

    It is not enough to just say that we need to spend more quality time doing things that we love for ourselves and with our families, but we have to make the time to actually put those things in play.

    This reminded me of that lesson that I seem to forget all too often.

  • Mallory Langston

    Mallory Langston

    February 1st, 2016 at 6:32 AM

    Thank you everyone for your comments. I appreciate your reflection on the topic! While snow days can certainly present some inconveniences, and not all of them welcome, I believe we can endeavor to make choices that allow for enjoyment and relaxation. It isn’t always easy to relax. After all, we have busy lives and bills to pay. I just try very hard to see these days as days that we are allowed to “cheat” without guilt or let go for a moment and allow the world take care of itself without us. If we don’t have a choice, we might as well savor it! I appreciate everyone’s insight into the topic!

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