We are now in the heart of winter, the coldest and darkest days. Christmas and New Year’s Eve have come and gone, and Spring is far, far away. Many people struggle during this time of year because the things they enjoy – sunshine, enjoying the great West Michigan outdoors, feeling warm, exercising easily, taking walks, and driving – are much harder or more unpleasant to do. So here are some ideas about how to care for yourself so that you stay warm, safe, and happy even when it’s miserable outside.
Probably the most important thing is to take care of yourself physically. If you get sick, everything else – school, your job, your social life – becomes that much more difficult to handle. To stay healthy, you need to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, maintain regular physical movement, and avoid too much exposure to germs. You may think, “This is college – that’s impossible!” It’s not impossible to keep track of what you’re eating, when you’re sleeping, and wash your hands on a semi-regular basis. If you have a hard time establishing good habits, ask someone you know, a friend or roommate, to do it with you and hold you accountable. That way both of you will take better care of yourselves.
Emotional health is also very important in the wintertime. Because it’s harder to go outside, people are less likely to get the social contacts they need to keep their spirits up. This is why being a part of a group or a club can be so important: it gets you up and out when you’d otherwise sit at home. If you haven’t had an opportunity to explore extracurricular activities at GVSU, take an hour or so and see if you can find something that appeals. Chances are people like you will be drawn to the same kinds of things. This is one of the ways great friendships are made
Of course, taking some alone time and snuggling into your couch or your bed to watch a favorite movie, read a novel, or simply take a nap can be very stress relieving. Warmth is also helpful, physically and emotionally, in the middle of winter. Make a nice cup of tea or take a long soak in a hot bath. Spoiling yourself doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be as simple as making and eating your favorite foods or bundling up in comfortable clothes.
Remember to hydrate. Many of the beverages we are in the habit of drinking, like coffee, tea, and sodas, are actually diuretic, meaning they cause your body to shed water. Drinking lots of water in the winter is just as important as it is in the summer. Even if you don’t feel as thirsty, your body is.
Finally, it’s important to remember to take your Vitamin D supplement. In the summer, if we’re outside, we naturally absorb Vitamin D from the sun. This is a health essential. Unfortunately, in the wintertime we don’t go outside as often, and the sun isn’t strong enough to give us what we need in any case. Taking a supplement will boost your immune system and make you feel brighter even on the darkest days.
Winter won’t last forever, but there’s no need to suffer through it when you could be making small changes to protect your happiness and well being. The first step in succeeding is making sure you have what you need. With that in mind, get out there and enjoy the snow!