Winter Time (Is Here Again)

Author: Hailey Dalby, Health and Wellness Director, Berkshire Family YMCA
Contact Hailey: 413-663-6529 x129 or email hdalby@bfymca.org

Does anyone else feel like February goes on forever? Despite it being the shortest month (on the calendar), many agree that it feels like the longest. With no end to dark days, and snowfall here, we find ourselves begging for February to be over - almost before it has begun. This winter has been particularly gray, and let’s not forget (or talk about) that ‘C’ word- you know, rhymes with shmo-vid. Through all of this dreariness, I have good news for you!

This month, we are going to talk about how to maintain (and even improve!) our health through the grayscale of February. To most people, myself included, the term self-help is just two four-letter words strung together. It calls to mind images of reciting positive mantras and drinking herbal tea whilst standing on your head. Have no fear! There will be no further mention of mantras today. Our topics of discussion will center around mental and physical health in the winter months and remembering to move our bodies; let’s dive in!

Winter brings many potential dangers such as falls, and slips, cold exposure, unfrozen surface hazards, and increased incidents of motor vehicle accidents. So how can we mitigate some of these issues? One of the best things you can do is give yourself more time to get to where you are going. This applies to walking and driving. There is always a chance that there is ice or loose gravel hidden under recent snowfall. If you do happen to slip, it is best to know how to fall (silly- but serious!). Always aim to catch yourself on your forearms, not your hands! Falling on the outstretched hand can cause fractures and sprains of everything from the wrist to the shoulder. Catching yourself on your forearms does a much better job of preventing these injuries. Always layer clothing in the cold months and wear footwear with traction. Multiple items of clothing will insulate better than just one article of clothing will, and ensure not to leave skin exposed for a prolonged period of time. Additionally, always remove a wet article of clothing as soon as safely possible. A special clothing note for the unique time we find ourselves in: While wearing a cloth mask regularly, make sure to throw it in the wash at least once a week! Now that we have spoken a bit about injury prevention, let's chat about mental health.

Also known as the winter blues, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is characterized by a depressive mood and low energy specifically in the cold months. As sunlight wanes, days become short and dark. If this sounds all too familiar, it is time to speak to your healthcare professional! It is important that once a mental health condition is suspected, that the next step is to consult a professional. (Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches). Understanding your own mental health is so incredibly important. We can classify this is as communication with yourself, or taking a mental inventory. Understanding that certain days may be more difficult due to workload, or that a certain song brings back specific memories are good examples of taking a mental inventory. Having an honest and real understanding of what your headspace looks like will help in your communication with others. Always be kind to yourself when doing introspective thinking. Having, or identifying emotions does not change how spectacular you truly are.

Now, the fun part! Let’s spend a bit of time discussing how to keep our bodies active and ready for the spring months ahead. At the Y, we like to think of Movement as Medicine. Everybody and every body can move! Whether adapting an old favorite to new abilities and spaces, or learning something new- we love to move! Now, movement and moving goals look different for every person. Some people like to exercise in groups and take as many fitness classes a week as their schedule allows. Others may be more interested in rocking out to their own music while doing a solo walk on the treadmill. If you’re not sure which type of movement is for you, get in contact with me (Hailey, the Health and Wellness Director) and we can get you started in any number of directions. Before you even walk through the door, take a moment, or put your feet on the floor, commit your day to movement. While laying down in bed, start to move each of your joints. Flex and point your toes, tuck and untuck your knees, give your neck a nice stretch and roll your shoulders back and forth. Now, it’s time to start the day!

This is for the work from home crowd! Even more so right now, there are so many people finding themselves working from home. This can be great for so many reasons, but can also be a devil in disguise. We could roll out the list of excuses, but I’ll keep it short for time’s sake: "I’m already home, I don’t want to leave to go to the gym." "I don’t have my ergonomic work chair at home, so my back hurts, I know I have a 30-minute break, but I could do the dishes, or catch up on some of my TV show." Do any of these sound familiar? If so, let’s start breaking those habits! Whether you are working from home, at the office, or keeping yourself busy with other ventures schedule out time each day to move. Movement does not mean you have to get you work clothes sweaty. It simply means adding in a few extra steps, squats, laps, or lunges whenever the workday allows for it. As always, if you have or suspect an injury, consult your healthcare professional. Once you’ve got the green light, it’s time to chisel out a schedule that is both safe, and incorporates movement.

February is tough, but so are you! Loaded with some new (or maybe refreshed) information, you are poised to take on February, and whatever life has to throw at you. Remember, there are no requirements for movement, other than to have a body and the desire to get up and go! It may not always be growing season, but it is always the time to be kind to yourself. Do you remember your SMART goals we discussed in January? Take a look back at them and see how you did. Falling a bit behind? Not to worry! Today is the best day to refresh those goals and face the world head on. Don’t forget; if you need help with your health and wellness, or fitness goals, reach out and see how the Y can be a part of your journey.

January 30th, 2021