Alright, the seasons are changing. I’m always cold. I want to wear a hoodie over my hoodie and soon sweaters will manifest. I have two blankets on the couch as I refuse to turn up the thermostat more… yet. Yes, Winter is Coming. And that means we have to be prepared. For the White Walkers. No, wait, wrong reality. We have to be prepared for the winter cold and what comes with it.
And with it comes more isolation. We are prone to self-isolation. Just saying when you feel in pain or sick or depressed the last thing you want to do is go anywhere… let alone when it is freezing out. As a Canadian, it is damn freezing out in winter. Blink and your eyes freeze shut cold. Once my car battery exploded at -50 C. That was interesting. That is not normal cold here, by the way. That was WTF cold. Point is, no one in their right mind thinks ‘hey, I want to go out there and have some fun!’. And so most people tend to hibernate a little more. And with chronic illness and chronic pain, a little more is a lot more. Like… see you in Spring.
But we have to be wary of this. Because mood is affected by isolation at the best of times and more so in the darkest and coldest of times. (You may get the subtle hint I do not like winter). And some of us with depression (me) get the extra bonus of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) which means winter is a real drag on the mood. Hell, autumn is and then winter is more so.
But we must resist the urge to wrap ourselves in a cocoon of blankets and binge Netflix… well, resist doing that Every day anyway. We must socialize once in a while. More vital for those of us like me who are home all the time and can’t drive… not like I can run an errand or go out and about with ease. Or long. Point being, I am isolated a lot. So I know I need to be amongst the peoples sometimes. People need people. Even introverts like me need people… in smaller groups and smaller doses, but we do. It is human nature. And we have now an epidemic of loneliness as people become more socially isolated. Which can lead to depression, anxiety and poor coping strategies. Not good things. A little outdoor time, like short walks, goes a long way in the winter. Going for coffee dates with family or friends also a fine idea to be outside the house and out in the world. Anything you can think of to get yourself out and about I’d say socially once every two weeks, even for short outings. But for like short walks during peak sunlight, every two days minimum to get soak in the Vitamin D and get outside.
One study suggested in the winter we need up to 4 times as much vitamin D as in the summer. And, by the way, apparently, a lot of us can be deficient in it anyway. But in the winter it is much harder to get what we need, obviously. My doctor recommends 5000 iu for pain but, coincidently, I had read it was actually recommended for all Canadians in the winter to take 5000 iu due to where we live. So there is that. Just know, in some areas of the world winter means less sunlight and less vitamin D which can affect a lot of things, including mood, so giving it a boost is a good idea.
Some of us feel more pain in the winter. (but then we also do during barometric pressure changes… so seasons all have their pitfalls). For me, it is extremes of any sort. But, yes, winter means more pain. And that tends to mean more heat treatment self-care.
- Epsom salt baths can ease the muscles and help with relaxation. I do this pretty much all the time but winter definitely.
- Heating pad– Large. Small. I have ones that are heating and cold which are awesome. I mean, the selection is nice.
- Heated blanket– Oh so freaking nice. I mean, this is great for all over bad pain days. I crank that up and cocoon myself in its awesome warmth.
- Hand warmers- with nerve damage in my hands, well, cold is painful and cramps my hands… and the pain can just keep on going. So these hand warmers are great. Easy to use. It helps with thin gloves too when you need to do something outside with dexterity, so thinner gloves the better… just stick your hands in your pockets to ensure they do not get too cold as every bit. I use these disposable ones but you can fork out for one that is actually is a wand warmer for people that do outdoor sports.
Steering wheel cover– Okay, another nerve damage issue is freezing cold steering wheels that burn your skin. It hurts like hell. So a nice one that is sleek, not too fuzzy, but warm is great.
Anyway, you likely have other things you use to keep the chills at bay. I recommend some good fuzzy socks and warm PJs for example. And some good tea is always recommended.
Other than heat therapy, we have to understand pain levels will be higher than normal, for some of us. That means any other self-care you use. Pain rubs. Gentle stretches. Meditation. Rest. Short walks. For me, too much rest means more pain. Too much activity means more pain. So some activity is always good even when I hurt… just not on extreme pain days when I need to rest.
- Winterize your cane- Cane spike that cane into a weapon! Against ice, I mean.
- Winterize your shoes- with these things to increase traction. Or get boots, but a lot of boots actually don’t have great traction ratings so make sure you do your research on which ones to buy for the best traction.
- Wear sunglasses to prevent glare so you can see better.
- Do the penguin walk on ice- spread your feet, bend the knees a bit and arms at the side for balance. Or if you have vestibular issues like me… just do the slow shuffle, this also works. Ask for assistance when needed.
Other than Seasonal Affective Disorder which I mentioned above in the first section we can just have a case of the winter blues. And we may need to boost our mood. Good time for our indoor hobbies and picking up hobbies. And trying to keep ourselves busy. We know all the things that boost our mood for us. Although these are some things to try as well. When it comes to winter it also brings the holidays and with can come a mood slump. In those cases, distraction is key. Spending time with friends, if not family. Doing alternative activities. As well as things like going for walks and exercise and meditation and all the things that help with our mood. We know our moods best. We know what helps. What doesn’t. When we need help, like to see a therapist or psychologist or to talk to someone we really trust. And when we can just get through with our usual bag of tricks. Winter can be harder for sure. And that is why I do recommend a variety of activities to keep your brain stimulated in different ways.
Okay. We do this every year. And get through the cold. The ice. The warming up the car. The shovelling. The… okay, I’m not going to think about it yet since snow isn’t on the ground… yet. Lucky this year, I guess. It can be a beautiful time of year. And then there is always Christmas. And if you do not like the holiday season, well, it comes right before the new year… and we begin again. Never know what a new year will bring.