“Winter’s not the problem, not being prepared for it is.”- Chip Hailstone, Life Below Zero
We are in the middle of winter, the East Coast of the United States has been hit with a record snowfall. Initially, most people’s reaction is one of wonder, and excitement. For many, the excitement will soon wear off as people find themselves housebound, confined, and having to make adjustments to their everyday lifestyle because of a curveball dealt them by mother nature. In the 21st century, we’re almost always aware that the storm is coming. Meteorologists are constantly giving us up-to-the-minute reports, and the average person has access to accurate weather reports and radar images anywhere on the planet. We know when a storm is coming, we buy the necessary supplies, stores run out of bread and milk very quickly, shovels become very hard to find, and where the heck did I put that scraper for my windshield?
If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, then you know the drill. Early December you make sure you know where your snow shovel is, you buy salt and sand for your walkway, you tune up the snowblower, and you make sure that the family vehicles all have ice scrapers for the windows. If you enjoy winter recreational pursuits, you make sure the equipment is in good working condition and you purchase necessary gloves, mittens and warm caps. Your prepared in every way except mentally. Somewhere in late January to mid February you, and millions of others, began saying things like “I’ve had it with this, this sucks, and I can’t wait till it’s over.”
I was born and raised in the greater Boston area and currently live in the state of New Hampshire. Those of us who live in areas where snow was not merely a possibility, it is a guarantee, shouldn’t be shocked, bored, or suffer from what in these climates is frequently known as “cabin fever.” We know winter is coming, it’s going to be rough at times, and it’s going to leave when it’s good and damn ready. Why is it that we are prepared in every way except mentally and why do so many of us get emotionally worn down, suffer from seasonal depression, and an increase in psychosomatic illnesses?
These same winter days will be remembered fondly somewhere around 4th of July. One of the beauties of living in New England and in parts of the country that get snow is we have a full range of seasons, and all types of weather. That same area of your yard where you could suffer from sunstroke in August is that same spot where you could get frostbitten on Groundhog Day. Well, here’s the good news – there are things that you can do to mitigate the physical and emotional challenges of one of mother nature’s most beautiful seasons.
Here’s some ways to not only prevent going stir crazy, but to actually enjoy the wonders of winter:
1. Embrace the season and all it has to offer. Too often people are in denial that winter is going to be challenging. Accept that mother nature is going to do whatever she wants, whether you have plans for the weekend, are prepared or get caught completely offguard. Acceptance of this and learning to roll with it is the most important factor. Mental attitude and outlook is virtually everything in life, and winter highlights this point perhaps more than anything.
2. Be prepared. Make sure that you have adequate winter clothing-clothes, boots, shovels, salt sand etc. Nothing is worse than being wet, cold, and miserable. If you don’t adequately prepare for winter, then you have no right to complain about.
3. Make sure you get as much sunlight as possible. One of the biggest factors in seasonal depression is a lack of sunlight. If you can, bundle up and get outside every day. If you can’t for some reason than make sure you keep window shades open to allow exposure to light. This seems like a minor point, but research indicates it is one of the major factors that contributes to seasonal depression.
4. Try to wake up earlier in the morning. Modern man allows the clock and our concept of time to rule our lives, and thus our emotions. If it’s possible to follow the sunset and sunrise with your daily schedule, then do so. This maximizes your exposure to sunlight and allows you to work with, rather than against, the rhythms of the season. Work with nature as much as you can.
5. Exercise regularly. If you can, get some exercise outdoors. For too many people exercise has become a sterile, controlled, indoor activity that they do closed off in gyms on machines under artificial lighting. Certainly this is not bad, but it is not what nature intended when the human body was designed. The body was made for work so that humans would be able to adapt and survive. Shoveling snow and winter hiking, and outdoor winter activities can be a great way to stay in shape and train the way nature intended you to train. Being in shape enables us to cope with environmental stressors that nature provides. Embrace, and even welcome, winter as one of these stressors. Use the challenges of winter to give a little variety to your exercise regimen.
6. Watch your weight and maintain adequate caloric intake. Recent research shows that any more than a 5 pound weight gain is excessive, regardless of how cold it is where you live. While you may change the foods that you eat, soups and stews for example instead of lighter fare, you shouldn’t take in any more calories than are needed. The myth of weight gain being necessary comes from our identifying with animals that put weight on during the winter. Those animals hibernate, we do not. Be active and eat accordingly.
Maintaining a positive attitude, being prepared, and embracing the beauty of nature and the season is the key to surviving and thriving during the winter. A lot of us bitch about the weather in make excuses as to why we can’t live somewhere else. Don’t be that guy! Adapt, adjust, and enjoy being a part of nature yourself.
“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” – Hal Borland
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