So far, this winter season has brought with it brutal cold, even for folks who live beyond the usual geographic area this encompasses. That said, for those of us with RA, coping with the cold has its challenges just as high heat does in the summer. On top of that, there is a winter blues/cabin fever aspect to winter that hits many folks, but may be especially difficult for those of us with a chronic disease that limits our mobility or increases our risk for falls.
Let’s deal with the cold first. My one sure, go-to way to manage this time of year is to how I dress. Sounds strange perhaps but for me having really comfortable yet warm clothing and shoes/boots is essential. I live in fleece, chenille, corduroy, etc. throughout the winter. I even have boots that have fleece all through them and socks as well. Outerwear is mostly longer coats, with down or some other really warm lining and a hood, ear muffs, and thermal gloves. I have found that if I am taken care of clothing-wise, it makes the entire season much more pleasant. I also have these great little hand heaters that I re-charge with a cable and they are terrific when I am sitting and watching TV or a movie. I also use warm, toasty blankets and heating pads for my joints. Another trick I have done for years is to have fleece sheets on my bed and to turn on my electric blanket on high for about an hour before bedtime. Then when I get in, it is so nice and warm! I often turn it off way down for the remainder of the night. Of course a nice, hot shower in the morning and/or a hot bath before bedtime make my joints a lot more cooperative. Our new car has heated seats and a heated steering wheel which is so amazing! I highly recommend that in your next car. To be honest, I prefer the cold to the heat for my joints since summer usually means humidity and my joints dislike humidity a lot more than cold. As long as I carefully deal with the cold I am good to go.
As to the winter blues, a few suggestions. During this time of year, my husband and I eat out a lot more and go to a lot more movies, theatre productions, etc., largely because it gets us out of the house! These are activities we enjoy all year but doing more of it in the winter really makes the long, dark days much more bearable. Also, we try to take at least one trip, no matter how short, again just to have a change of scenery. I have a screened in back porch that is our oasis in the summer, but since that is all closed up in the winter it is nice to find a place to go that offers that same sense of change and alleviates that cabin fever. Invite folks to come visit you if you have the stamina to manage it. Sometimes folks want to come to where you live for the same reason you like to travel.
There is also the SAD effect (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that may or may not trouble you. My husband has this, and about a decade ago, started using a blue light and it has really helped. The short days and lack of Vitamin D can really be an issue for some people, so check with your doctor if you are feeling more lethargic, irritable, sleep deprived, depressed, etc. There are ways to deal with it that do not involve adding more medications.
One thing I really try to monitor this time is my tendency to drop off on my exercise. I swim in the mornings and boy is it tough to get up, in the dark, go out in the cold, and go to the pool. Rather than scold myself and feel bad about it, I try to increase in another area, say Tai Chi, to offset.
There is some adapting necessary when winter sets in, but if you make those adjustments, it can be just as wonderful a season as the other three!
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