8 Tips to Survive Until Spring
There’s a reason why weather is the biggest topic of small talk: everyone experiences it. We all know how bad Chicago winters are. You’ve probably been hibernating in your bed, watching Gilmore Girls and eating pizza for the past few weeks. This may be the first time you’ve seen the outdoors in days, the negative-degree cold having kept you firmly wrapped in your blanket burrito. While hibernating is a good strategy, it can easily lead to a bad case of cabin fever.
Collected below are some suggestions to help you overcome winter by providing suggestions to get out of your cave, along with some tips for making it a more welcoming one to be in. Though many of the suggestions are little things, creating small amounts of physical and emotional warmth will accrue over time to provide a sense of comfort and ease that can carry you into spring.
Tip #1: Vitamin D
The harshness of winter manifests not only in your dry knuckles (moisturize!!!), but in your mind as well. Many people have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), one cause of which is a vitamin D deficiency. Your body creates vitamin D in response to the skin’s exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. During winter, your vitamin D levels (and your mood) droop significantly.
The key to staying healthy and sane in the winter is providing for yourself what the sun usually offers in during the other seasons. In the winter, it becomes more and more important for us to generate our own heat and light.
Tip #2: Light Therapy
SAIC’s Wellness Center is offering light therapy to those in need. Head over to the 13th floor of 116 S. Michigan Avenue to find out if SAD symptoms are affecting you, and to check out the light boxes they have.
Tip #3: Exercise
It’s hard for me to advise people to exercise because I hate it. But it’s important to find a way to keep your body moving and active, especially this season. Exercise releases neurotransmitters called Serotonin that stave off depression and elevate mood. Exercise also burns through sluggishness and lethargy to give you energy throughout the day.
The best time to exercise in the winter is in the morning. Taking a short walk or doing 30 minutes of yoga right when you wake up is an excellent way to bring fluid to the joints which have probably gotten creaky during the night. It’s also a good idea to go to a gym or a yoga studio. LA Fitness has an SAIC student discount and most yoga studios in Chicago offer discounts when you can show a student ID.
And, if you exercise during the day, you’ll not only have an easier time falling asleep but you will also feel more rested when you wake up.
Tip #4: Nighttime Routine
Creating and keeping a routine at night is a good way to signal to your body that it’s time to start shutting down. The first thing I would recommend is putting your phone and computer away for about an hour before you go to bed. The blue light emitted from the screen signals the body to stop producing melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.
If you have a coffee maker at home, set it to start brewing about ten minutes before your alarm goes off, so that you wake up to the smell of coffee, which gives you something warm to wrap your hands around and a reason to get out of bed.
Another cozy idea is to leave your clothes for the next day on a radiator or heat them with a water bottle so that they’re warm when you wake up. Same goes for towels when getting out of the shower.
Tip #5: Insulation
Installing plastic wrapping over your windows is easy and cost-effective. Many Chicago apartment buildings, especially cheaper art student-occupied ones, are very drafty. You can purchase the plastic at any hardware store, and it will save you money on your heating bill.
Tip #6: Massage and/or Sauna
The cold causes your muscles to tighten and shrink, and shoveling and hunching through the snow doesn’t help. Getting a massage or going to a sauna is a great way to get warm and relax. Most venues will have a student discount as well. It’s a great way to get calm and centered at the beginning of the semester.
Tip #7: Diet
Drink a lot of hot tea with honey and eat spicier foods to give your body some extra internal warmth.
Tip #8: Nature
Besides Christmas trees, seeing anything alive and green at this time is rare. To get a taste of summer, go to the Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier. There, you can hang out with tropical plants and spouting fountains. Or head to the Garfield Park Conservatory: admission is free and they have different themed rooms like the Palm House, the Desert House, and the Fern Room.
Another way to take advantage of our limited access to Mother Earth is aromatherapy. Head to any flower shop and buy a few sprigs of eucalyptus. When you get home, tie them to the shower head or curtain rod. The steam from your shower will activate and release essential oils in the leaves which will help clear the sinuses to prevent colds and the flu.
I wish you luck in surviving and maybe even thriving in Chiberia. We’ve already made it through the first and hopefully last polar vortex of the season. Until I emerge from my burrow in February to determine whether or not there will be six more weeks of winter, I hope you stay warm, hydrated, happy, and moisturized.