No one wished for part two of this, yet here we are
Winter isn’t coming, it’s already here.
If you’re like me, you live so far north, it’s practically Canada. Dark and frigid months lie ahead, and it’s only the beginning.
It’s not the snow that’s the problem — it’s the lack of sun.
Nighttime falls at 4:45 pm ET before you can even clink your first glass at happy hour. From November through March, average temperatures hover between -8 to 0 degrees Celsius, according to NOAA. (That’s 17 to 32 Fahrenheit for you silly Americans.)
I run cold. My genes hail from Southeast Asia, and I grew up partly in Tennessee, so I got used to wearing no more than a light jacket in February.
Ever since I moved up north, I became familiar with a little something called the Winter Blues.
Clinically speaking, seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD (a most fitting acronym) is defined by Mayo Clinic as:
a type of depression related to changes in seasons, most commonly experienced from late fall through winter when people receive less sunlight.
According to Dr. Norman Rosenthal, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School:
“Six percent of the US population, primarily in northern climates, is affected by SAD. Another 14 percent of the adult US population suffers from a lesser form of seasonal mood changes, known as winter blues.”
As I entered my first pandemic winter last year, I had to make a plan for my well-being especially after months of isolation.
No one wished for Part Two of Pandemic Winter Self-Care Tips, yet here we are, entering not our first, but our second pandemic winter.
These five habits from last year helped me take things day by day until I could see the sun again. I hope it helps you too.
1. Take a Daily Walk
I know what you’re thinking.
“You live in Winterfell, and you still went on a walk every day?”
I did. I was desperate.
My spirits needed a boost, and I needed fresh air. My body craved movement.
Every evening, at 5 pm, when I logged off my work-from-home job, I squeezed into my fleece-lined jeans, popped on my waterproof Timberlands, layered on my heat-trapping thermals, and topped off with a scarf, hat, and gloves. Also, my trusty mask, which served as a warm shield against the biting wind.
The sun would disappear by the time I stepped outside, so I stayed mindful of the ice on the sidewalk.
Extensive research shows the many health benefits of going on a walk:
- Increased heart and lung fitness
- Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
- Prevention or better management of conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, joint, and muscle pain or stiffness
- Stronger bones and improved balance
- Increased muscle strength and endurance
- Reduced body fat
- Increased energy levels
- Boosted mood, cognition, memory, and sleep
- Reduced feelings of stress, tension, and anxiety
Take a walk as light exercise and stress relief. Daily evening walks will create an artificial separation between your workday and the rest of your evening.
2. Sign Up for a Live Class
I had never signed up for a live virtual class before, and I had the joy of doing so for the first time last winter.
I took a Bollywood dance class held three times per week taught by a lovely, dynamic, and dedicated instructor. The class cost was reasonable, and if you attended at least once per week, it would come down to five dollars per class.
The synchronous nature of logging on at the same time as everyone else gave me the illusion of community and a coming together of sorts. Upbeat music paired with physical exercise helped me stay positive and grateful.
You can’t go wrong investing in your well-being, especially when you’re learning something new, cultivating a sense of community, and giving yourself opportunities to exercise.
3. Make Homecooked Meals
There’s something wholesome and relaxing about making yourself a healthy, balanced, and nutritious meal.
The benefits of homecooked meals have been outlined many times:
- Saving time and money
- Controlling all the ingredients that contribute to a healthier diet
- Knowing and regulating what goes into your body
- Reducing calorie intake through portion control
- Enjoying a family activity for the entire household
- Bringing people together over a delicious meal
The best part of cooking at home is giving yourself a sense of control amidst a chaotic world.
Turn off the news for an evening and prep yourself a creamy salmon pasta with a side of oven-roasted Brussel sprouts and a fresh baguette. I mean, might as well, right?
Cooking at home allows you to control what goes into your body and gives you a sense of control when the world outside gets hectic.
4. Call A Friend
When I told my friend that I call different people every day, she sounded surprised.
“How do people respond when you call them?” she asked. “Are they ever weirded out?”
It’s rare to get a phone call instead of a text with no notice, and I don’t recall a single encounter where it was weird or awkward.
In my experience, people sounded truly happy and excited to be hearing from someone who cared enough about them to ask about their lives.
I wouldn’t ring someone up that I’d only met once. They’d usually be old classmates, peers, and colleagues or long-time friends with shared interests.
As I stepped out the door on my daily walk, I would scroll through my phonebook and hit up names I hadn’t heard from in a while.
Someone even thanked me once for calling them because they know how difficult it can be to reach out to people during such self-isolating times.
I became extremely proactive about staying connected to the people in my circle despite physical distancing. Humans are inherently social after all.
It brought me joy to hear people’s voices and learn more personal details underneath the surface of Instagram stories and curated social media reels.
If I learned anything from those interactions, it’s that no one has it all figured out no matter what image they portray on the surface. There’s something comforting about knowing that we’re not alone in the journey of endless learning.
Humans are social creatures. For me, calling a different friend or acquaintance every day served as a coping mechanism to ward off loneliness and social isolation.
5. Get Light Therapy
My family has the pleasure of living in sunnier places. I would often text my family requesting photos of blue skies and sunshine because if I didn’t get to see those things, at least somebody got to, and I get to live vicariously through them.
Those photos reminded me that the sun and blue skies do exist for someone somewhere, even if not for me in the moment.
To compensate for the lack of sun, I plugged in my therapy lamp every morning to expose myself to natural light that mimics the sun’s daylight.
It helped boost my mood, increase my focus and energy, and promote overall feelings of wellness by inducing my brain to produce hormones and chemicals that it otherwise would under the sunshine’s influence.
Expose yourself to light therapy that mimics the sun and its natural, energy-boosting effects on the brain.
Disclaimer though: I am not a medical professional. Please consult a medical professional before you purchase and/or use light therapy. This article is for entertainment purposes only.
To recap, five things you can do this winter to plan for your happiness are to:
- Take a daily walk
- Sign up for a live class
- Make homecooked meals
- Call a friend
- Get light therapy
With these steps, you can prevent and minimize any potential side effects from reduced sunlight in the wintertime.
Best wishes for a safe and not-so miserable winter. If all else fails, pack up your bags and move down south where plenty of sun can be enjoyed by all.
Thank you for reading!
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If you swung by yesterday looking for a new post, I’m sorry! I highly doubt anyone did, but just in case, my sincere apologies. More than likely, no one cared. Literally no one.
See you here on Thursday! 🙂