Winter. The most dreadful time of year. Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic and most of you will disagree but I dread Old Man Winter (sorry Mother Nature). Winter literally hurts me to my core. Each year I try to come up with new strategies to combat the winter blues. I think many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD or seasonal depression. In Virginia the days become shorter. The dark skies and colder temperatures take over. The vitamin D is synthetic. My body literally prepares for hibernation like a bear. Daylight is essential for SAD sufferers.
In my 20’s I would head over to the local tanning salon for mock sun therapy during the winter. Sometime in my 30’s I developed a spot on my face that turned out to be basal cell carcinoma. Boom! Therapy over. Considering all the tanning I did in my twenties I feel fortunate to have escaped with one incident to date. I never realized how much the warmth from those machines helped me mentally through the winter. It was time to find a healthier alternative to combat the winter blues.
Later in my 40’s I discovered I had a fun little syndrome called Raynaud’s. If you have never heard of this let me enlighten you about it. Raynaud’s is poor blood circulation to the small arteries leading to your extremities. It is usually secondary to something else. For me it is secondary to hypothyroidism. Yes, I hit the lottery with that one. Having poor circulation to your extremities can make winter difficult. My fingers, toes and lips first turn blue and then white (no blood circulating). It’s quite attractive (not) and at times can be painful. The pain is similar to your foot ‘falling asleep’. If we have ever met and shared a handshake you may have thought for just a moment that I was on “Team Edward.” I am pretty darn cold to the touch. Starting in the fall I pretty much wear gloves all the time. In the dead of winter the temperatures can be unbearable.
Keeping busy is vital to enjoying winter. Finding an outdoor activity you enjoy is a good distraction.Having Raynaud’s can make it difficult to enjoy outdoor activities in the winter. I try to force myself to do something outside every day. Colder days are definitely tricky. Some fun winter activities include skiing, hiking and playing in the snow. I personally love to go snow tubing. It makes me feel like a kid again. There is absolutely no skill involved, which is perfect for me! This child like activity helps my moods and attitude tremendously. I usually have to put on 30 plus layers of clothing and keep heated hand warmer in my gloves and shoes. Hand warmers. Greatest. Invention. Ever.
The best gift you can give yourself this year is to mentally prepare a winter survival kit. My gym is the number one tool in that kit. Just having a place to go, outside of the house, to release the stress of the day is HUGE. Last winter I stopped going to the gym. I didn’t even go once. I let outside influences stand in my way. Oh how I missed the stress relief. It took a toll on me both physically and mentally. I am not at my full potential unless I am working out. I go to the gym with the hopes of getting into better physical shape but the greatest reward is the mental empowerment I receive. This winter I have made a promise to myself to stick to my gym routine. I need it. My family needs it.
Here are ten tips/ideas to help you prepare for Old Man Winter. If you can’t shake the winter blues please seek the advice of your family doctor.
1. Make time for friends. Set up a weekly date for coffee, lunch or your favorite glass of wine. Busy week? Facetime!
2. Power walk. If you can’t stand the cold go to your local mall and walk. No shopping therapy. That can lead to greater sadness when the bill arrives.
3. Volunteer your free time. Contact your school, a nursing home, the service league or an animal welfare league. They all need your help and YOU will feel GREAT at the end of the day!
4. Write! Go to your local coffee shop or Panera and just write. If they have a fireplace even better! Sit right next to it and purge all those fabulous thoughts inside your head.
5. Outdoor photography. Try it. Find the beauty in winter.
6. Sign up for a class. Keep your brain active. Craftsy.com. Check it out.
7. Start a small business. (I did!) or consider direct sales. Get out and meet new people and earn a few extra dollars.
8. Start a house project. You can paint your room a new and refreshing color. No extra funds? Clean and organize a room. Equally therapeutic!
9. Get a seasonal job. Earn a little extra cash to help with those holiday bills.
10. Limit social media. There’s something about seeing everyone else having ‘fun’ that makes us feel sad.