I dislike the cold a great deal. For me the gradual decline into winter means more discomfort, more pain and less time spent outdoors. These are all things that make an already tricky life with chronic illness that much harder to manage with.
So rather than languishing in my upcoming winter blues, I thought I’d spend the end of the Summer and the beginning of Autumn by coming up with ways to combat what I really hate about the colder months.
Colder weather means more pain
There’s no getting away from the weather. Even indoors the colder air can play havoc with our tired bodies. I really struggle when it’s cold as my body is already working hard to help me manage with pain and trying to keep warm on top is an added burden.
I’ve spent the summer hoarding up warm winter clothes, coats and comfy shoes for when winter returns, which should help me with the worst of the outdoor weather.
My other main areas of discomfort are resting time at home and my hours spent at the office. Happily I have an under the desk heater to stave away most of the pain and ease the strain on my body.
For home I have a lovely and warm sleeping bag suit, which means I don’t have the whack our central heating quite as high.
I’ve also knitted a good amount of my winter hats, scarfs, gloves and cycling gear. Coincidentally I highly recommend knitting to combat chronic pain. I find the distraction that knitting provides a crucial part of my pain management, with the added bonus of being able to make unique clothes and gifts for the family and loved ones who support me through my illness.
Less time outside
I’ve become a huge fan of cycling in the past year. It’s a sustainable mode of travel and it’s crucial exercise which keeps my pain at bay. So the prospect of winding down my cycling at all just because the weather gets colder isn’t an option. In order to keep the amount of time I spent outside up, I plan on cycling through the winter.
Spending time outside in the daylight hours becomes even more important during the winter. It’s harder and less pleasant for me to do at a colder time of year, but I am hoping that that regular schedule of cycling I started last winter will keep me going until the Spring.
Bothersome colds and flu
I’m at my most miserable when I have another illness on top of my regular one. Having colds or flus is horrible at the best of times, but I am at my lowest ebb when I catch a cold. An illness like that used to make me poorly for a couple of days, now I’ll be flat on my back for at least a week, with recovery ongoing for a number of weeks after that.
So this year I’ll be getting the flu jab as I did last year and the year before that. Anything that boosts my immune system and helps me avoid the worst the season has to offer is a welcome step. I’ll be using the advice from my becoming ill when you’re already ill update to avoid illness as much as possible this Winter.
Disturbed sleep and colder sleep
I often suffer with unfulfilled sleep and unfortunately colder temperatures only make this worse. So this year I’ve invested in an electric under-blanket to make the colder bedtimes and colder mornings that little bit more more tolerable. Buying this bit of kit in the height of a heatwave saved me a lot of money, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be too expensive.
I also struggle to stay asleep and breathe easily while asleep because of the colder, drier air in the night. (That’s the thing that leads to your nose having a dry, sniffy cold sensation in the morning). So I’ll be digging out the humidifier and setting it on a timer to give me relief as I fall asleep and as I wake up.
Shorter days and dark mornings
Waking up in the dark is disorientating and pretty horrible. It’s one of the things I find hardest about the Winter. So I’ve managed this in the last year or so by using a light alarm clock to help me wake in the mornings. The idea is that you set a time you’d like to be awake by and the light alarm clock slowly illuminates the room with bright light (similar to sunlight) so that you wake more naturally compared to using a jolting sound alarm.
It personally really helps me with the mornings, taking a considerable edge off of the groggyness I experience in the morning, and I feel more rested and relaxed in the mornings as a result.
So for me the Winter is all about finding small and inventive coping mechanisms to help buoy me through my least favourite time of year. I’m feeling hopeful. That said, bring on the Spring.