Does it seem cloudy to you this winter? Well it has to me. This winter has allowed me a chance to see the challenges that Torontonians face during the colder months. Symptoms range from the usual suspects; depression, food cravings, less physical activity, insomnia, low daily energy. But winter always brings an extra helping of Seasonal Affected Disorders through the clinic door. Since we have to be preparing for winter in fall and then recovering from winter in spring, our healthy winter strategy is nearly a year round plan.
So if it really requires preparation and recovery, what does a good three season approach to getting through winter look like? I’m sure you have your favorite tricks and hope you will share them in the comments. Here is the Go Beyond Healing short guide including lifestyle and food tips for getting your body and mind through winter most effortlessly:
- Stay warm but do not stay inside. It’s really important that your body sees daylight every single day, so bundle up if you have to but get outside and walk, skate or ski. Remember lots of very valid activities can be indoor, like yoga, weight lifting, or ping pong. Exercise in winter is key to getting good sleep and staying well.
- Listen to the body and get extra sleep. 8 hours is a minimum. Try not to have screen time for the two hours before bed (like I’m doing right now). Turn phones to airplane mode and let your wi-fi turn off while you are sleeping with a simple timer. Try to sleep in as dark a space as possible for the deepest sleep possible. Play with taking your fit bit off during sleep and see if you actually sleep deeper.
- Foods should be cooked. Some hearty seasonal favorites like beef stew, omelets, and add your favorite choice from the great variety of root veggies and hard squashes at your local market. Make sure to get three meals a day with friends or family, as this is the best environment for rest and digest.
- Even when the temperature spikes and you are tempted to go outside dressed as for summer, it’s important to hold back. Genuine warm weather will be here soon, but it’s easy to get caught out on your biggest spontaneous walk of the year and realize you’re getting a chill, and wish you had another layer. But do enjoy the sunshine when it’s out and make sure you feeling that natural vitamin D.
- If you’re increasing your training for some summer event that’s planned, remember that hard training requires tactical nutrition and you always want to have a piece of fruit or bagel nearby in case you feel the blood sugar drop. This is a sign you’ve gone to far and need to take an easy day to get your good motivation back. It’s still so important to listen to your body.
- If you’re going to do an annual cleanse, spring is usually the only appropriate time to do that, but it should be later in spring when your body is really ready for it. It’s just too soon for most people to do this in late March. Fill your diet with plenty of spring greens and green foods.
Summer. Take it off from thinking about winter and move around freely in the outdoors.
- Fall is a time in Chinese medicine to enjoy what we still have while preparing for what’s coming next, which looks like winter. Enjoy the fall foods and holidays while watching the signs from your body if you think you’re over indulging on either food or alcohol. If your activities are slowing down, you will have to adjust intake as well. Drink plenty of water. Plenty of the season fruits, including apples, pears, cranberries, go well with keeping the bowels moving.
- Your body may want to sleep as we pass the equinox. This change may be more or less from year to year but honor that message. Get outside as much as you can with the shortening days. It’s very important to put your winter activity strategy into action, including things like yoga, swimming, running, and of course social and dinner plans that come with the longer evenings.
- Vitamin D – depending on exactly where you spend your winter months, you may need to supplement your sunshine based vitamin D. A year’s supply in easily absorbed drops is only about $10. Everyone of all ages needs this especially if they do not drink enriched dairy milk.
- Even if you can tolerate eating cold and raw foods well, it’s important to realize that this is never the best option for the health of your digestion. We all like a few bites of yogurt or a cold kombucha on a hot day, but keep in mind that room temperature is better, and foods that are even lightly cooked are significantly easier for you body to digest.
- Know when you need help. What are your year round rituals for self care and staying healthy? A monthly appointment for acupuncture, massage, or Biofield Tuning can be the check in you need. Regularly scheduled you-time to think about what’s going on with your mind and body are super helpful. Just talking about what’s up is a great habit to be in, so walks with friends who are good at listening could be part of that healthy routine.