5 Ways to Welcome Winter

Welcome Winter thumb

Ideas to help you come out ahead during the cold months ahead

Like every year, winter is quickly approaching. Temperatures are beginning to fall quicker than the gorgeous fall colored leaves, the sun is going down earlier and earlier, and the thoughts in the backs of everyone’s minds are beginning to form. Coronavirus doesn’t pair well with much of anything, but it especially doesn’t pair well with cold weather, flu season, dark skies, and shorter days spent indoors. Winter doesn’t have to be this scary, foreboding elephant in the room. If we all ban together, hold ourselves and our friends accountable, and support one another, we can get through these next few chillier months with grace! Here are some tips and things to keep in mind when entering winter.

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1) Taking Care of Your Physical Health
Pandemic aside, it’s flu, strep throat, bronchitis, and pneumonia season! We all know that as soon as the temperatures plummet, our immune systems can too. It’s extra important to keep your bodies healthy during this time of the year with COVID still very prominent. There are certain types of foods you can eat in a greater abundance in order to begin the process of what is called “immunity boosting.” Immunity boosting essentially gives your body its best chance at strengthening your immune system when you need it at its peak strength, such as during the winter and in a pandemic. Eating foods high in vitamin C, iron, zinc, and vitamin E can help to keep your immune system strong and fight off illness. Exercising, getting adequate amounts of sleep every night, and frequent hand washing will also help to strengthen your immune system and keep bacteria and viruses away from entering your body.

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2) Preserving Your Mental Health
Times have been difficult from March until now for people across the world. The COVID pandemic has brought us into the face of challenges we never could have imagined we would ever face in our lives and has tested everyone’s mental health in different ways at different times. Seasonal depression affects approximately 1-2% of the population, particularly women and younger individuals. Subclinical levels of seasonal depression, also known as “the winter blues,” affects anywhere between 10-20% of the population. This is often related to chemical imbalances caused by the lack of sunshine and warm weather, and here in Upstate New York, we all know the drill!

Find a “winter accountability buddy” who you know you can count on to mutually support one another during these winter months, whether that be through exercising together, setting weekly date nights to always have something to look forward to or socialization to be had, or just to know you have someone that has your back and is willing to check in to ensure you’re doing okay. Join book clubs, a group fitness program, or weekly Zoom group to tack onto your calendar! For people living alone or away from loved ones, this time can feel isolating and lonely, but by finding even just one friend to hold you accountable and support you, you will find yourself feeling more at ease.

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3) Increase Your Hours of Natural and Artificial Lighting
Spring forward, fall back! We know here in New York State that the winter brings along shorter days where the sun often sets around 5:30 or 6:00pm in the peak of the winter. Utilize your lunch hour to get outside, go for a drive, or complete the errands you need to get done while the sun is still out. If you’re able to, situate your desk next to a window to increase the amount of time your body is subjected to natural light throughout the day. If you can’t access natural lighting throughout the day, try and increase your artificial light to provide your body with the stimulation it needs to get through the day. You can buy special broad-spectrum or fluorescent lighting that helps to increase the Vitamin D in your body, which most of us have a deficit in, and that can contribute to seasonal affective disorder. Light therapy, even for just 10 minutes a day, can give you the brightness you need.

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4) Check in on Each Other
While some of us may feel equipped to handle the winter, there are some groups of more vulnerable people who may not feel as comfortable with the new time of the year. The elderly tend to be a group of people that are overlooked during the winter and holiday season. Check in on a neighbor that you know lives alone, leave them a nice note in their mailbox, or offer to go on a grocery run for them. You never know what people may need, so if you have the resources to do so, just check in and ask every so often. Text a friend you know struggles during winter months, that lives alone, or that you think could use extra support. If we all stick together, these winter months can be full of joy rather than feel like impending doom.

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5) Try Something New!
The winter is the best time for trying out new hobbies. When COVID first hit, everyone was taking up new hobbies that they had never tried before - bread baking, puzzle making, hiking, home decor - so why limit yourself?! Buy a pair of snowshoes, cross-country skis, yard and knitting needles, weird ingredients from the grocery store, and put your skills to the test! Join a Facebook group full of people that have one mutual hobby, and learn from people all over the world that can give you insight on a new craft. If we challenge ourselves to get out of our comfort zones, we can completely change our outlook.

The winter quickly approaching has been a topic of discussion between people over the last month or two, so make a pact to yourself and the people that you love to ban together rather than pushing apart. Social distancing is still in effect, but emotional distancing doesn’t have to be. In a world of people that are proficient in Zoom, FaceTime, Google Teams, and Google Classroom, we should be able to be more connected than ever. We may have just set the clocks back, but let’s move forward with confidence that we can make this the best winter season yet!