Survival Tips for the Transition to Winter

As temperatures drop and we count down to the shortest day of the year, many of us canít help but feel a sense of dread. It means winter is coming. And depending on what part of the world you live in, winter can feel like a very long time.

Winter doesnít have to be a season you only suffer through. You can take positive steps to embrace the cold and everything that comes with it.

1. Strengthen Your Immune System

Itís not a myth that people are healthier in the summer compared to the winter. A University of Cambridge study discovered that around a quarter of the genes that affect your immune system are influenced by the time of year.

During winter, genes that suppress inflammation become less active than in summer. This may explain the rise in diseases related to inflammation during winter, such as cardiovascular, autoimmune and infectious diseases.

Related: 14 Signs of Inflammation And How to Stop It

Survival Tips

  • Wash your hands. Donít apologize for being a germaphobe this time of year. Washing your hands thoroughly and regularly is one of the best defenses you can wage against infectious diseases.
  • Stay warm. Itís been shown that your immune system is more sluggish when youíre physically cold, so bundle up and cover your mouth and nose when it gets below freezing to keep the cold out.
  • Take a break. Hormones released when you feel stressed are known to disrupt your immune function. Relaxation methods like meditation, exercise and spending time with friends are all shown to fight stress and support your immune system.

Related: How to Boost Your Immune System with Dry Brushing

2. Support your mental wellbeing

Shorter days can also bring mental health challenges for many of us. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression caused by lack of light. SAD affects about 5 percent of Americans, and 10 to 20 percent of us experience somewhat milder winter blues.

In addition, research done on Google internet searches found that Americans looked for mental health-related information 14 percent more often during winter than summer. And some of the highest increases in queries werenít for depression like we might expect. They were for conditions such as eating disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and schizophrenia.

Survival Tips

  • Expose yourself. Get exposed to as much daylight as possible. Take lunchtime walks outside, get up as early as possible to catch the full dayís light, and try to work near windows during the day. Supplementing with artificial light can also help. Check out how to maximize the benefits of light therapy.
  • Find help. If you feel yourself heading down a wrong path, ask for help as soon as possible. Speak to your doctor, friends or family, or others you trust to help you get back on track.
  • Do what you love. The winter doldrums may be partially caused by being stuck inside and having more time on your hands. Take the opportunity to sign up for an art class, start a hobby youíve always been interested in or spend a bit more time getting through your reading list. Youíll have more fun and maybe even start looking forward to winter.

Friends in snow

3. Fill Up Your Energy Tank

Feeling lethargic and tired is a common complaint during winter. There are good reasons why many of us hit an energy slump this time of year.

Melatonin is a hormone your body makes to help control your daily sleep and wake cycles. Typically, melatonin levels start to rise soon after sunset, stay elevated all night while itís dark to help you sleep, then they drop as the sun rises. Long nights and short days mean that your melatonin stays elevated longer, which can make you feel sleepier in general.

Survival Tips

  • Stand up regularly. Whether youíre at work or lounging at home, make sure you stand up for about 5 minutes for every 30 minutes of sitting. This has been shown to improve blood circulation and blood sugar regulation, which will help keep your energy up.
  • Be productive early. Youíll often feel the most energetic first thing in the morning. So, if you have any complex or high-energy tasks to get done, try to do them before lunch.
  • Get some extra sleep. Why fight nature if you donít have to? If your schedule allows for it, take the opportunity to go to bed earlier or get up a bit later for some extra snooze time.

4. Avoid Weight Gain

A few different factors can conspire to make you gain weight over winter. If youíre feeling depressed, you may reach for high-carbohydrate foods for their sugar rush to help you feel better. Combine that with increased opportunities for sweet snacks over the holidays and you could have a dangerous mix.

Potential sleep disruptions from melatonin fluctuations and holiday busyness can also cause you to be tired and make poor food choices. And if you spend time outside, youíll naturally burn more calories to stay warm. This is a good thing for keeping your weight in check, but you may be extra hungry and tempted to overeat after a good winter workout.

Survival Tips

  • Eat enough nutrient-dense food. If youíre on a restrictive diet, research has shown this can actually make your food cravings stronger. Make sure youíre eating enough whole foods, like beans, grains, meats, fruits and vegetables. These will make you feel full and satisfied. Even if you have a few after-dinner treats, you wonít overindulge.
  • Stop eating 2 to 3 hours before bed. Evening snacks are rarely a good idea. Youíre tired and more likely to choose unhealthy foods. Also, having a full stomach at bedtime can disrupt your sleep and add to your fatigue.
  • Find exercise you enjoy. Exercise doesnít have to be a chore. The best way to ensure youíll stick with any type of exercise is if you truly enjoy it. Consider an indoor climbing gym, swimming at your local pool or taking a dance class. Or if you enjoy outdoor activities, try cross country skiing, snowshoeing or brisk walking.

Related at Care2

 

45 comments

Anna R
Anna Ryesterday

Thank you

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Paola S
Paola S5 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Chad A
Chad A9 days ago

Thank you!

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Amanda M
Amanda M11 days ago

I LOVE winter compared to summer! I'm not sweating my brains out from the increasingly hot summers (thanks for nothing, climate change!), I have more time to pursue craftwork because I'm not spending every waking minute doing garden chores in addition to housework and hauling kids around, and I can wear real perfume instead of "Eau de Bug Dope!" The only downside? Stomach virus season and the fact that for whatever reason nobody else likes to be out and about in winter. ARGH.

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Marija M
Marija M11 days ago

Pretty cold winter here this year. Tks.

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ERIKA S
ERIKA S11 days ago

thank you for sharing

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Angela K
Angela K11 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Paulo R
Paulo R12 days ago

winter isn't so bad, ty

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Winn A
Winn A12 days ago

Layers!!!

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Winn A
Winn A12 days ago

Thanks

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