Once again extreme cold and snow have returned to Chicago. The National Weather Service announced that the expected highs on Wednesday in northern Illinois would reach -4 degrees and bring wind chills as low as -30 and -35 overnight, resulting in the closing of most Chicago schools. As winter returns to Chicago, so does our tendency to dash from our homes to our cars with only work and errands pulling us out of our hibernation. While Understandable, it can also lead to the “Chicago Winter Blues.” For many that will result in sleeping in on weekends, eating more, a general lethargic attitude and reduced social contact. I can’t change the weather, but I can pass on a few tips to get through a Chicago winter.
The effects of the Winter Blues can be particularly harsh for people suffering from depression. I am not a psychiatrist, and I do not minimize the
very real impact of clinical depression. If you are receiving professional help; please follow their guidance; for the rest of us, these tips should make surviving a Chicago winter just a little easier.
Eating a Healthy Diet.
We have all heard the expression “ You are what you eat.” If this was entirely true I would be a bowl of chocolate ice cream, but clearly the food choices we make impact our lives. Most nutritionists will advice people to avoid, or reduce, refined and processed foods, including white breads, rice, and sugar. The reason is connected to the desire to limit those “Sugar highs” and subsequent crashes. While this is sound year-round, it’s importance increases when doing battle against winter. Eat more whole grains, brown rice and low fat proteins. Remember, you are likely getting less exercise, and more prone to putting on weight.
One of the constant complaints you hear each winter in Chicago is “I wake up and it’s dark, I go to work and it’s still dark, I leave work and it’s dark again.” This is a very real problem and a major factor in the Winter Blues. The days are shorter, and without daylight-savings-time the number of hours we get to spend in daylight are dramatically reduced. But help might be as simple as making use of lights.Michael Terman is the director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University Medical Center. His research points to the notion that seasonal depression is often caused by waking up in darkness rather than light. This simple change can affect your body’s internal clock in such a way that it can lead to a condition he calls “depressogenic.” By opening the shades, turning on brighter lights in the morning upon waking up, can trick your body and reset your attitude.
Give yourself a reason to look forward to winter.
It might be skiing, sledding, going for snowmobile ride, anything that’s fun and only available in winter, gives on a reason to get excited, and anticipate the coming season. The very act of having something you look forward to can reduce the monotony of the shorter, colder days. In Chicago, the BEARS games can brighten up many guys winter, however the downside can come quickly after a few fumbles. One trick is to plan a weekend get-away. Sure a week on a beach in the Bahamas will do the trick; but sometimes a few days with friends or a “Special someone” at a nearby lodge or spa can be just what the doctor ordered.
Make time for friends.
Over the summer you might have met friends at the beach, went for long bike rides, had friends over for a few drinks, but as winter comes along we all tend to hang closer to home and have fewer social encounters. While this is natural, it can be increasing your sense of isolation and depression. Break out the wine and cheese, invite people over for a movie night or get a group together to meet for brunch. Any of these social encounters will surely brighten your mood. Make an effort to spend quality time to with your family.
A good workout can relieve stress and help improve your outlook on the day. This is particularly true if that activity can get you outdoors. From running, cross-country skiing to just taking a long walk will get you heart pumping as well as get you out of the house or office. I understand that work comes first, After all it’s 7:00 and I’m still at my office writing this, but with a bit of planing you should be able to find moments to take a quick walk, saving the longer events for weekends. I have made a habit of walking to and from work each day. The eight mile round trip is done all for seasons.
Dress For Winter.
There is no way to put a positive-spin on frostbite. If you live in cold weather- get your self the right clothes. The single greatest piece of advice I can give to someone asking how I keep warm is to dress in layers. Don’t expect a single coat to do the trick, few coats will provide that degree of protection and even if you find one that will, it will likely leave you over-heated on the warmer parts of the day. No the trick is to dress in several layers. By dressing correctly you can spend more time outside without the unpleasantness that cold days can bring.
Take advantage of Chicago Landmarks.
I understand that when Oak Street Beach is filled with people basking in he summer-sun, the idea of spending your day inside a museum holds little appeal; but winter is a great time to take advantage of the list of World-Class cultural institutions that call Chicago home. The Field Museum stands as one the most important Natural history Museums in the world. Staring up a 42 feet long and 12 feet high T-Rex can take your mind off winter. The Museum of Science and Industry and The Art Institute of Chicago are also both important parts of what makes this city great. Winter can also be a wonderful time to walk through the Jackson Park or Lincoln Park Conservatory, as can the Lincoln Park Zoo (remember many of the animals in inside giving you an opportunity to periodically warm up )
Yes, the cold whether will arrive, but with the few steps I outlined above, you should be able to still enjoy Chicago and keep the “Winter Blues” in check.
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