This weeks’ ChronicBabe blog carnival is all about winter wellness and fitness and surviving the winter blues. It’s a fantastic idea, since so many of us struggle at this time of year, and even those who don’t could probably use some encouragement and ideas. Here are a few of my own experiences….
Winter is my best season and my worst season. It’s the easiest and it’s the hardest. Health-wise, it’s all sorts of contradictory.
On the one hand, a lot of my symptoms are triggered by hot and humid weather, so the cold winter is a welcome relief. Others cringe at 30 degree weather, but I actually don’t mind it (but I can do without the 5 degree weather, thanks anyway.) On the other hand, it’s dark, and even when it’s light out the sun is lower (less direct sunlight) and my skin isn’t getting much exposure since it’s all covered up in layers of warm clothing. So I have fewer autoimmune symptoms, but then seasonal affective disorder (SAD) comes and rears it’s ugly head. Plus, with snow and ice, I worry a lot about falling.
This has been an unusually easy winter in Boston. Until last week, we had almost no snow. This has to be some kind of record. We’ve all been walking around confused, wondering where our winter went. In fact, until a few weeks ago, it was unseasonably warm. We’ve had 50 degree days. We’ve had rain. Best of all, we’ve had clear sidewalks! I didn’t have to worry about slipping at all, so I was able to take a bunch of long walks, which is my best and safest form of exercise these days. The key is dressing right: warm sweater, warm pants, super warm coat, and of course hat, gloves, and scarf. And don’t be afraid to wear long underwear if you need it.
My motto is, it doesn’t matter how I look as long as I’m warm. I have to say that in order to be able to wear the big pink coat in public. I have Raynaud’s, so I’m careful to keep my core warm so that my hands and feet don’t get too cold (but honestly, they do anyway unless I wear the right boots and gloves.) If I’m dressed well like this, I can take a half hour walk, and my big problem is that partway through I’ll be sweating. It’s all about dressing right, and staying indoors when it’s dangerously cold.
Until the sidewalks are clear I won’t be taking long walks on them if I can help it. I’ll wear my amazing boots with the fantastic treads, which are also super warm (even my toes stay warm in the coldest weather!) and I highly recommend them, but I’m still too nervous about slipping. If I can hit my head in my own living room, (and I’m still hurting from that one) I better be extra careful on the ice. There are alternatives, though. There’s walking in a mall, walking through a museum, walking on a treadmill (boring, but it gets the job done) and plenty of other indoor walking possibilities. One winter I did exercise videos in my living room. They’re walking programs that involve additional movements (kicks, arm swings, etc.) But when there’s no other choice, I’ll walk outdoors in my good boots and with a lot of care.
The thing is, I’m not big on exercise. I’m really a couch potato by nature, but I know it’s good for me. I feel better physically. And it helps the SAD. Being outside during the day is huge, even on cloudy days. Fresh air and a little sunshine go a long way. I won’t pretend it fixes everything, but I have noticed that I’m happier and more energized on the days that I take a walk outside. The only other things I’ve found for the SAD are a light box and reminding myself that it’s temporary. Already the days are getting longer, and I look outside most evenings and celebrate that it’s still light out at 4:45. Those bits of appreciation really do help.
Each season can come with it’s own problems, but there are often workarounds. The trick is to find them. I wish well finding yours.
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