Column: Navigating the hard winter months


Commentary by Valerie J. Weesner

Aren’t January and February just the hardest months of the year? The cold and snow start to settle in, holiday celebrations are over and we barely see the sun. It’s hard to want to go anywhere or do anything.

Every year, we try to think of new ways to make it through the cold, Midwest winter. Although we come up with a thing or two that may help, it’s easy to forget them year after year! So, let’s take a few moments to think about what types of things could help lift our spirits this year until the days get longer, the sun is out, and the warm weather and vibrant spring colors and scents arrive.

Start by considering what you can do in these different areas of your life:

Take care of yourself: Ask yourself these questions: How do I take care of my emotional well-being? Am I engaging in self-care? Do I have support when I need it? Who do I reach for, or call, when I need to feel nurtured and cared for? By asking yourself these questions, you may start to realize you have good strategies or maybe areas where you might need to put more time and effort. Do you need to learn about self-care strategies? Do you need to ask for more help and support when needed? Consider meditation, relaxation, massage, lighting candles or using essential oils, maybe even reading, listening to music or calling friends.

Keep your mind active: Are you keeping your mind active? Are you staying curious, learning new things and maybe even teaching others? Consider taking a class, listening to podcasts, reading, playing games, doing puzzles and actively engaging in conversation to keep your mind moving.

Spend time with others: Are you spending quality time with others? Are you talking to others, laughing and sharing? If your social network has contracted over time, what are ways to start building new social networks or adding to your current one? Consider what might make your social time feel richer and more meaningful to you. You can even include new and interesting activities in your social time! If you typically go out with friends, stay in with them and play games. If you typically stay in with friends, try walking through a museum together. Shake things up!

Keep physically active: There is no surprise in the fact that we all benefit from moving, stretching and building strength. In what ways are you challenging yourself to get movement into your day, and how often do you get to a gym to add training and cardio into your exercise program?

What if you could combine some or all of these things to help improve your emotional, social and physical well-being? I’ve personally been spending three to four days at the gym weekly for several years now. I can tell you firsthand that walking through the door at my gym truly makes my day. I enjoy the people, work hard while laughing, and more importantly, I feel cared for and nurtured. The culture of my gym, not just the workout, makes my life so much richer, happier and overall healthier.

So, what might be one or two small steps you can take to start feeling better today?

Valerie Weesner, Ph.D., HSPP, is a licensed clinical psychologist and advisor to Motion 4 Life Fitness. Contributions by Breanna Koester, health science major at Indiana University Kokomo, intern at Motion 4 Life Fitness