Winter, Warmth and Keeping Well (The 3 W’s)

Suffering with a chronic illness means we need to prepare as much as we can for a weather and season change. As Autumn and Winter approaches, the cold weather and dark nights start to draw in and we should start thinking about things we can do to help us deal with, what I believe to be, the worst season of the year.

The shorter days and longer nights can increase depression in people as we are not getting enough natural vitamin D as we do through the summer. We can concur this by taking Vitamin D supplements. The extra vitamin D helps fight off depression and help with pain as being deficient in this vitamin (which most people are in the winter) can cause muscle cramps and aches. However, for those of us that take enough tablets in the first place, this just seems to be ANOTHER tablet to take but there is another solution. You can purchase yourself a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) light which is specially designed to replace the missing natural light that having shorter days causes. SAD lights can help with depression, sleep issues, anxiety and many other issues that are attributed to darker nights. SAD lights are proven medical devices, you can find more out about SAD lights at www.sad.org.uk

The colder temperatures that occur with Autumn/ Winter can really effect how someone with a chronic illnesses pain can be. There are things you can do to keep yourself warm on going out or warming yourself up on coming back indoors. We lose heat from out extremities so covering yourself up when going outdoors will help combat the heat loss. We are all aware that a nice pair of boots, a coat, a hat, some gloves and a scarf will help cover ourselves up when venturing outside in the cold weather but if you are someone that suffers from Rhynaud’s or have extreme coldness in your hands and feet add some small hand warmers into your gloves and/ or boots. You can buy disposable ones or you could purchase the oat /rice warmers that you warm up in the microwave. However, these all eventually go cold so why not have a nice warm bath as soon as you get back indoors to help warm you back up and your body relax before going to bed.Add some Epsom salts to it to help with any extra aches or pains you may have gotten from the day outside and some Lavender oil to aid the relaxation. Keeping ourselves warm isn’t just covering ourselves up but keeping ourselves warm from the inside too. Cold Food and Drinks make our bodies work harder, for those of us that are spoonies the extra energy loss is a definite no.

Hot Foods and Hot Drinks help keep our core temperature regulated and in turn keeps our external self, warm. We do like to have a lot of food and drink in Winter as it is the season of partying and partying unfortunately includes Alcohol. Alcohol can dilate your blood vessels which in turn ends up with extra heat loss and if you are trying to keep warm is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. Partying also includes dancing for some people, possibly not so much those of use with a chronic illness but even if we aren’t dancing away we are still sweating. Sweat is our bodies way of reducing its temperature and in winter can be counterproductive. Be aware of any sweating you do and blot it off as soon as possible to stop your body from cooling down.

Keeping yourself as healthy as possibly during the Autumn/ Winter months will help stop any flares ups that you may have. Having lots of dairy products (or for those that cannot have dairy, dairy substitutes). Dairy products contain a lot of vitamins (including vitamin A, B12 and calcium) that can help fight off colds and flu that are rampant during these months. However, having dairy products cold can have a disadvantage on keeping yourself warm, so why not add some yogurt to a curry, have milk in a nice hot chocolate or have some hot rice pudding. Even if you still have issues getting colds after eating healthy why not ask your doctor for this year’s flu jab, even if your doctor can’t give you the flu jab you can purchase one from a chemist for as little as £7. Whilst at the chemist treat yourself to some hand sanitiser. You are more likely to catch a cold from a door handle then sitting next to someone that has a cold.

All these little adjustments can help you keep healthy and warm within the Autumn/ Winter months, and will help you reduce the amount of pain flares you could experience. You may think that doing all these little adjustments make you lie further from normal, but what is normal? Normal is what you make it.