So winter here in Canada (aside from Vancouver, those lucky bastards!) and other places can endure a long time. Chronic pain tends to be worse in winter. Isolation tends to be worse in winter, especially when pain is a factor. It is cold out and that can aggravate pain, especially things like temperature-sensitive nerve damage or allodynia. It is darker than the other seasons and that does nothing for mood, does it? And the lack of light is why one doctor recommended to me 5000 IU of vitamin D throughout the winter.
So winter blows. I think we can agree on that unless you like winter sports and such, which I do Not.
And we can get a case of the blahs. Or into a mental funk.
Signs of the winter blahs:
- Mood may be lower and you may actually have SAD (Seasonal affective disorder that needs to be treated more specifically than just the winter funk. Like light therapy)
- Low energy and fatigue
- Having less interest in doing the things you enjoy or engaging in activities due to low motivation (hands up for me! Motivation plummets during the winter)
- Less inclined to socialize
- You may overeat, especially on those comfort carbs.
- You may notice you are not yourself and irritable
So here are some things to get you out of the blahs.
Yeah, I know, winter sucks but even a short walk in the light can be beneficial to help with the winter blues. It is the number one tip. Get some light. Get some movement. Doesn’t have to be a lot, but it can really help.
Keep your drapes open
To suck in the light we can get inside. And/or lights on. Unless you have a migraine, then this one sucks. But that light makes us feel more awake and alert and feel a bit better.
Dress warm and drink hot drinks and wear warm fuzzy socks. All the things to keep you snuggled up. Being cold doesn’t improve mood. When going out dress accordingly. And if you have nerve damage make sure to protect those areas as exposure to cold can cause pain and mobility issues for the rest of the day.
If you do not have a hobby this is a great time to pick up one. If you do, it is a great time to engage in it. It fills the time and it boosts mood.
So we know this is a good idea because it is good for our emotional wellbeing and the best way to combat the isolation factor of winter. Go out for coffee. Play cards with friends. Have a movie night.
There is good research to suggest supplementing with Vitamin D during the winter and just overall is a good idea. For pain. For depression. And the lack of light exposure. Also, other good ones for the winter blues are Fish oils and a B complex.
Great time to chill
And read that book you were getting to. Or watch that movie you wanted to see. Or binge that show you heard about.
Engage the brain
The brain loves to learn new things be it a new hobby, or new activity, or new recipe or new whatever. Even a free course online. Or playing a new card game with friends. Something to get it going. Or even start a project you have been meaning to get to. Like sorting through old clothes and books for charity (checked those off my list this winter). Do some extra de-cluttering. Cleaning that thing that never gets cleaned.
Okay, this one isn’t a fun one, is it? But a good twenty minutes 3 to 4 times a week will combat the winter blahs. (just started this one myself. Day 3 of the week! 25 minutes! Woot!). And this, by the by, includes just walking. I use a stationary bike because walking with vertigo sucks. But walking is a great start for exercise when we are chronically ill. Working our way up to that 20 minutes. Slow and steady. It is harder with balance issues. But walking is a fine exercise that has the added bonus of light exposure.
Stick to a regular sleep routine
I know it is cold and we want to sleep in and maybe oversleep and our cycle can get all messed up. But make sure you get up and go to bed at the same time to try and maintain your normal cycle. The main issue with this is painsomnia and the fact with chronic conditions when we are landlocked to the house… this can get rapidly out of whack any time of year and it is a real struggle to sort it out. But we can adjust it back, slowly, with a lot of effort. Still a good nights sleep with no oversleeping or undersleeping does the body good. Personally, I have to use a sleeping pill due to insomnia and painsomnia, but I do keep to a routine these days.
Do something every day
This is something I have talked about often for our sense of being productive and feeling good about ourselves. You can, if you are feeling quite unwell as I am, stick to the 10-minute rule. 10 minutes of housekeeping a day and a little more if you can handle it. But one activity or task a day will make us feel accomplished.
Blast out some good tunes. It does help with mood when we choose uplifting music.
Meditation can be very relaxing and soothing. And it helps in numerous ways neurologically. It isn’t hard. It is free. And so you lose nothing giving it a go. But it isn’t for everyone for sure. But certainly, I like it to de-stress.
Eat a healthy diet
We crave the carbs in the winter for sure but check out 10 food tips to help ease the winter blues for some pointers on diet. Basically, serotonin boosting foods… one of which, by the way, is dark chocolate. MMmmm.
Which I recommend for everything because it is awesome. The benefits of a bath compounded with the benefits of the salts…. perfection on a cold wintery day. Also perfect if you choose to exercise because it can really help with the pain management of that.
I would love to just hibernate in the winter. Love it. But the fact it, that winter funk can really creep up on you. So we do have to maintain our mood the best we can in the winter months especially with chronic illness when we often have isolation issues all the time that gets worse during the winter. What you choose and how you do it depends entirely on you and what is suitable for this moment in your illness. Not all things are possible for us all the time. But we can try to do a little bit to help us get through the winter. Every bit counts. I’m not saying pick up skiing unless you can (some people beat the blues by doing various winter activities, but many of us are limited in that aspect) but rather just go for a little walk and catch some of those limited winter rays.