Friday, January 20, 2012
My 6 Tips for Surviving Winter with a Chronic Illness
Trust me, no one dislikes winter more than this former Miami girl. The shorter days, the dipping temperatures, the whipping wind chills, the (dare I say it) SNOW all make me shiver for more than just the obvious reason. Before coming back to New Jersey to pursue my Master’s Degree three years ago, I spent four years attending the University of Miami (GO CANES!) in Miami, FL. Why did I move far away from my amazing family and friends (who mostly stayed in the North East for college) and fly south at age 18? One word – WARMTH. My desire to live in perpetual summer was much stronger than my desire to stay with the familiar, and it was worth it. Sun, sand, warm water, and palm trees all year round is what I expect to see when those pearly gates open and let me in at the end of my life. In other words, Miami is heavenly.
So, what do I do to fight the winter blues when I want nothing more than to be nestled under a palm tree with a good book in the tropics? Here are my six tips for surviving winter with a chronic illness.
1. Change Your Thoughts – I’ve had to drastically change how I think about the winter. Although I still despise the cold, I’ve taken on the mindset of the Eastern traditions that view winter as a time for introspection and reflection. Use this time of hibernation to go deep within yourself and reflect upon the year that has passed and the changes you would like to make moving forward. Meditation is a great tool that allows you to go within, quiet your mind, oxygenate your body, and relieve stress simultaneously. It sure beats seasonal depression.
2. Eat a Vegan Diet – I will preach this until my last days. Eating a whole foods, plant-based diet supports you mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. During the winter, it is especially important to eat in a way that supports your energy levels. Load up on raw fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and green juices, and avoid processed sugars, alcohol, and caffeine. Supplementing with Vitamin D3 when the sun does more hiding than shining is a fantastic idea.
3. Exercise – Exercise isn’t only for maintaining your weight and keeping your system healthy. Exercise oxygenates the body and relieves stress by releasing endorphins, those feel good, natural pain killers. Make time to engage in whatever form of exercise you see the most benefits from. Yoga is a great choice in the winter because it can be done from the comfort of your own heated home.
4. Layer Up – Many of us with chronic illnesses have restricted blood flow to certain areas of the body and lower overall basal body temperatures. Make sure to layer up so that you remain comfortable. Cold puts a certain amount of stress on the body that we can certainly do without.
5. Color – Bring some color into your life! So many people have winter wardrobes bogged down by black, grey, and brown. I was once told that my “closet looks like Miami threw up in it.” My wardrobe is dripping with color, and thanks to the current trends, I just added several neon pieces to my collection. Score!
6. Don’t Isolate – Winter hibernation can lead to isolation, so make an effort to stay in touch with those people in your life that make you feel good. Social support aids in proper health and well-being for a variety of reasons, but it can also make the winter slide by without any major depressive catastrophes.
Hang on tight! The days are getting longer, and spring is around the corner. Happy Healing!