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Get A Grip on STRESS: Winter Edition

winter stressGuest Post By: Dr. Anthony Macioce

If you live in a place where winters are mild, ignore this article and consider yourself lucky.

Winter provides unique activities for children – making snowmen, sledding, snowball fights, snow days; and adults –  skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice fishing and polar bear plunges. (A polar bear plunge is when a group of lunatics jump into a frozen lake through a large hole in the ice. Seriously. I am not making this up.)

Unfortunately, winter also brings with it a unique set of hazards to your health and unpleasant stressors – frost bite, hypothermia, falls, car accidents, snow shoveling, etc.  The following advice is designed to protect your health during the winter months (or if you live in Minnesota, 6 months of the year.)

TIP #1 – BUNDLE UP… 

Winter isn’t the time to make a fashion statement, it’s time to keep warm. (although my wife tells me that things called “UGGS’ are both fashionable AND functional) Wear a parka, hat, mittens, boots and scarf.  FUN FACT: Scarves keep the blood going to your brain warm. When your brain gets warm blood, you FEEL warmer.  So when it’s cold, always wear a scarf, preferably a pink camo scarf. 🙂

TIP #2 – MAKE A DEAL… 

If you get a big snow storm and don’t have a snow blower, don’t be shy! Ask a neighbor to help you out. I’m sure they would be more than willing to lend a hand, especially if your significant other is deployed. Send them home with a small token of your appreciation, Military Martha’s patriotic baked goods for example, and everyone’s happy!

TIP #3 – SHOVEL SMART… 

If you absolutely have to shovel, use your head. Don’t scoop more than you can comfortably throw, alternate throwing left and right, and take a few breaks.

TIP #4 – WALK THIS WAY… 

Once the deck, sidewalk and driveway are clear, throw down generous amounts of salt or other material to melt the ice and remaining snow. It may seem inconvenient to do this extra step, but it’s more convenient than a fractured wrist, tailbone or skull.  If walking outside is part of your exercise routine (thumbs up!) you’ll inevitably encounter slippery spots.  I highly recommend wearing “Snowtrax” or “Yaktrax.” They are inexpensive, odd-looking things you slip on the bottom of your boots or shoes that give you incredible grip, lessening your chances of falling.

TIP #5 – DRIVE THIS WAY… 

Last night we had a dusting of snow, followed by extremely cold windchill’s. I woke to about an hour’s worth of sirens. Turns there were three car accidents nearby within a short period of time. We’ve had very little snow this year and these people obviously forgot how to drive on snow. It’s simple, leave more time to get to your destination, slow down and don’t drive like an idiot. P.S. 4-Wheel drive means nothing if you’re driving on ice.

TIP #6 – SHOO AWAY THE BLUES… 

Winter blues can mean many things; over eating, being out of shape – feeling sluggish and getting out of your normal routine. Don’t let the cold weather dictate and keep moving! Make sure you are getting enough sleep, too. Eating healthy and making sure you get enough exercise will improve your mood. Studies show that walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression, including the winter blues! Exercising under bright lights may be even better for seasonal depression. If you’re stuck indoors because of the cold or snow, keep busy. Tackle those projects you never have time for during the week, the key is to stay busy and make use of your time.

Hope this helps you survive and thrive this winter, and during winters to come!

If you have any unique winter ideas or experiences to add, please share them with us in comments section below. Thanks!

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2 thoughts on “Get A Grip on STRESS: Winter Edition”

  1. Dr. Anthony this was a great article! Thanks for the smart tips and I hope people actually take them seriously!! My parents moved to MN a few years ago and I spent a 9 month period (over the winter) there while my husband was deployed and I miss MN so much!!

  2. Thanks Amanda, if you ever make it to the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” again reach out for us, my wife and I would love to meet you!

    P.S. After spending a winter in MN, you’ll understand how weird 2011-2012 has been for us. We have a 1/2 inch of snow on the ground, the forecast predicts near 40F tomorrow, it’s almost February…and we live in DULUTH!

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