The cold and gray of the winter months can be hard for anyone, but they can feel especially grueling to individuals who are stuck in their homes without much interaction. Winter can also be hard on caregivers who can’t even get their loved ones outside for some sunshine. This winter readiness guide provides ideas to help beat the bleary weather blues and keep everyone warm, comforted, and content.
Advice About Positivity
It isn’t uncommon for people to be excited about winter up until December 26; after that, however, they are over the cold and gray which means that January, February, and March are long and tedious stretches of time.
“The weather is what it is, and it certainly doesn’t care what you or I think about it,” says Bob Mueller, Bishop of the United Catholic Church and Today’s Transition’s contributor. “Instead of being open and accepting of whatever we are experiencing, we resist it, push it away, and demand that it be different. But like fighting the weather, it’s a losing battle.”
In winter, we sometimes feel like we’re fighting the weather, boredom, and loneliness. And while we should try to find something productive to do with ourselves or reach out to friends to alleviate our loneliness, accepting that the doldrums of winter are sometimes going to happen is also a good idea. “Acceptance reduces pressure and anxiety. As you embrace what’s going on in life instead of demanding that it be somehow different, you’ll spend far less time being frustrated because you’ll be so much more open, accepting, and interested in what’s really going on,” Bob says.
It is also important to remember that winter, like all things, eventually ends. Bob says his favorite scripture passage is “‘And it came to pass.’ It’s because all things do come to pass.” While today may be icy and gray, tomorrow the sky may be blue and the warmth of the sun through the windows will perk you up a bit. Just wait.
Advice About Telehealth
One positive that has come out of the pandemic is people’s increasing acceptance of telehealth as part of their health care. Terri Paige, co-founder and CEO of Medical Transformation Center, says only about 10% of their patients did telehealth before the pandemic now telehealth appointments can be between 30%-50% of appointments.
Terri says there are many benefits to telehealth, especially for older adults in the winter. Some patients can’t drive themselves which can make in-person appointments tricky and time-consuming. Patients with mobility issues may find that during the winter, when they feel particularly cold and achy, doing telehealth is less tiring and less stressful. Adults who work full time find that telehealth is simply more flexible for their schedules.
In most cases, it is optimal for a physician to see a patient in person, and there are some things that simply can’t be done via computer like blood work or urine samples. But doctors can still tell a lot about a person from seeing them on a screen and getting a history of their symptoms and complaints. “You can see facial expressions, affect, the face and neck, puffy eyes,” Terri says. “When faced with the choice of no care or telehealth appointment, the choice is to do telehealth.” A telehealth appointment is a much better option for a patient than simply not seeking care for an issue that concerns them.
Advice About Changing Your Surroundings
When you see the same surroundings all the time, especially during the winter months, it can begin to make you feel bored and blah. Jessica King, owner of JN Brown’s in Middletown, Kentucky, has a number of ideas to spruce up one’s living space and add some interest.
She suggests going for a walk and clipping some cedar or pine branches. “Getting some fresh air is always nice, but clipping these beautiful trees and bushes brings lots of people joy this time of year. It’s one of my favorite things to do, it’s free, and [it] instantly makes me happier,” she says.
When you are inside the house due to the cold, put that time to good use and declutter your space. “If you take away items from bookshelves and tabletops, it will make your space feel more open and airy. Light has more opportunity to bounce around the room when there aren’t as many objects,” she says. After decluttering, you may even be able to act on Jessica’s next suggestion, which is to rearrange furniture and accessories.
If you’re willing to spend a little money to make changes to the home during winter to keep spirits up, Jessica suggests buying new light bulbs. “A warm white, a cool white, and daylight bulbs can change the feel of a room,” Jessica says. Another idea is to purchase light-colored slipcovers for couches and chairs, which will make the room seem lighter and brighter.
Advice About Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Winter Moods
It is very common for people to develop feelings of sadness when the seasons change. Barbara Martin, director of social services for the Integrative Counseling and Wellness Center at Heuser Hearing Institute, says SAD is also tied to experiences that people may have had during specific seasons. For example, the Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa holidays tend to make people think about loved ones they have lost which also tends to make people feel a little down.
SAD is a form of depression so the symptoms can include not having the energy or desire to do things you usually enjoy doing, having problems concentrating, difficulties sleeping (either too much or not enough), and experiencing fluctuations in weight. Unfortunately, not dealing with SAD can lead to worsening feelings of sadness and even less energy to get up out of bed or off the couch. “Those sedentary lifestyles give us problems with nutrition, diet, and exercise [and] then that turns into diabetes and cardiac issues,” she says.
A light box can be a fairly easy and inexpensive way to get some extra vitamin D into your life to help ease SAD symptoms. Barbara recommends a box with a minimum of 10,000 lumens. “You don’t want to have UV rays [so] I’m not a fan of suntanning on a bed,” she says, due to the risks of skin cancer from these devices. An individual doesn’t have to sit directly under these lights or look into them (that is actually not advisable) to get the benefit of the light source.
Increasing one’s intake of fresh fruits and vegetables is another way to help mitigate SAD symptoms and improve one’s mood. An easy-to-make smoothie of non-dairy liquid, berries, power greens such as kale or spinach, and low-sugar yogurt several times a week can help.
By Carrie Vittitoe