MY LIFE: Coping with winter weather when you have a chronic illness

Ah, cold, snow, wind…all enemies of the chronic illness warrior. So what can you do to fight back? Here are a couple of things I’ve found that work.

I’m always hot, so even in the winter weather I don’t wear tons of clothes. This works well with the sensitivity issue some of us struggle with, since the clothes aren’t heavy. But on the other hand, letting yourself get cold won’t do! So lots of gloves, wraps, and other things that are easy to transport and layer are my go-to’s. I have wrist warmers, fingerless gloves, light wraps, heavier wraps, and I use them all.

During the wintertime, especially, I avoid driving at night. I also avoid driving when it’s snowing. My vision gets distorted at night, and damp nights are even worse. Trying to navigate through snow can be a challenge for chronic illness warriors, though, and I prefer to stay home. I have migraines as part of my illness, and the effort it takes to see through all the distractions really takes a toll on me.

Also during cold weather I increase the number of baths I take. About once a week I do a detox bath with baking soda and epsom salts or magnesium flakes, and just a regular bath the rest of the time. I find this keeps my muscles happier and less likely to seize up. Additionally, it’s easier for me to fall asleep after a bath.

One of the biggest causes of depression in chronic illness warriors is lack of Vitamin D and sunlight. You can use a lightbox or other specially-designed light to simulate sunlight. I have one of these but I use it sparingly since it’s SO BRIGHT. I also up my Vitamin D supplements to offset the lesser amount I’m getting from the sun.

With all the social functions and holidays over the fall/winter, you might feel pressure to offer to host, etc. Resist that guilty feeling. You don’t have to prove you can do anything, and if having Thanksgiving at your house is going to throw you into a week-long flare, it’s not worth it. If you must be the one hosting, try to get people to bring food and don’t worry about cleaning your house. Throw stuff in closets. Call in reinforcements – this is a time for your family to shoulder the load.

Don’t try to walk outside. One of my favorite ways to exercise in decent weather is simply a stroll around the block. But especially those of us who are weather sensitive need to be careful about how much we’re exposing ourselves to the elements. Plus, how much would it suck to slip on slick roads and sidewalks?

Lastly, this may seem selfish and hard to do, but try try try to stay away from sick people. When chronic illness warriors get sick, it’s a big deal. I just got over a cold that, of course, turned into a sinus infection. All told I was sick for about two weeks. And when I’m not feeling well, on top of regular not feeling well, it’s game over. Of course, this illness coincided with Christmas. You may need to increase the amount of immune-boosting supplements you take, or diffuse one of the many essential oil offerings to help your immune system fight off the bugs.

Those are my major strategies for winter weather. What are yours? Tell me in the comments!

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