person stuck inside a snow globe and outside it is spring

Surviving the Winter Months

I used to really mind the winter months. While I was grateful to live in Pennsylvania where we enjoy four seasons, I terribly minded the cold, dark days December through March. Then I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and these months felt even colder and darker than ever. Being sick in the warmer months felt more manageable, and in fact, I felt better physically in the warmer months for some reason.

The cold and dampness shook me to the core, and stomach cramps and joint pain were exponentially worse. On top of the physical pain was also the emotional toll of less sunlight and extremely cold temperatures. I felt like I was living in a dark cave for months on end, and was often depressed until spring finally came around again.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized why I was feeling this way during the winter months and what I could do about it to make myself feel better physically and emotionally.

Ask your doctor about Vitamin D supplements

As Crohn’s patients, we tend to be lower in key nutrients such as Vitamin D. And, since Vitamin D is responsible for keeping our bones strong and maintaining a healthy immune system, it is critical we maintain normal levels of it year-round. The problem with the winter is, however, that we get less sunlight which is the main source of this important vitamin. In order to compensate for this, I take daily Vitamin D supplements so that my levels do not drop below normal when sunlight is not as abundant.

Speak to your doctor about your Vitamin D levels and see if taking a supplement will help keep it at an optimal level. They also come in varying dosages so you will want to be sure you are taking an adequate amount, too.

Enjoy winter-only activities

There are certain activities that are better enjoyed during winter, such as snuggling under a warm blanket to watch a movie, drinking hot chocolate, and eating heartier meals. Or, if you are the more outdoorsy type, going snowboarding, cross country skiing, or ice skating is perfect for this time of year. Take advantage of the winter months to indulge in these activities since they only last for a few months out of the year.

I also enjoy embracing the fact that it gets darker much earlier in the winter. I feel less pressured to socialize with friends or stay outside for long because it is dark before dinnertime. The darkness honestly used to drive me crazy and discourage me from doing anything after 5pm but now I use it to my advantage to take a candlelit yoga class, eat dinner earlier (since it feels like 10pm anyway) and have an earlier bedtime.

Hibernate happily

Speaking of earlier bedtime, I like to think of winter as a time to hibernate happily. As I mentioned above, I feel less pressure to socialize in the winter and have recently chosen to enjoy that. We all need downtime, especially when living with Crohn’s, so I like to think of the season as an opportunity to recharge and slow down in order to better prepare myself for the remaining nine months of the year.

Also, hibernating can be a great way to focus on yourself and getting healthy. Use the alone time to eat well, exercise, and practice meditation. There is beauty in stillness and in being alone, so when reframing winter as a positive excuse to recharge, focus on yourself and getting well, and indulging in some of your favorite cold-day activities, you will feel much better about the winter months!

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