Birgit Bauer, who lives with MS, shares 5 tips for making the cold, winter months feel a little more bearable.
The leaves are falling down into the puddles and the days are shorter. Winter is here and with grey days ahead, alongside the ongoing pandemic, the next few months are going to be a challenge.
With mask wearing and social distancing still a very real part of our lives, it remains hard to see friends and family and keep our various relationships alive. We need that human touch and we must find ways to replicate it throughout the winter months, despite it being harder to see people outside.
Preserving the optimism of summer
Some weeks ago, during one of my online coffee breaks at work, I discussed with friends a few ways to help us get through the upcoming winter days – ‘together’ while keeping our distance of course.
“We need to keep the good mood we get from summer and bring it into fall”, we agreed.
Now more than ever, we realised the importance of good friendships and enjoying activities together. So we started a new project: “Let’s preserve summer for winter”, was the motto. We began to think of ways to hold on to the feelings and optimism of summer, despite the limitations of dark, winter weather.
For many of us living with MS and other chronic illnesses, we know how hard it can be during winter, and we know the coming months will be harder than usual. For all of us.
Some of us will experience depressive phases, and some of us will be affected more by our MS symptoms during the colder months, so it’s important that we keep our bodies and mental wellbeing in check. Now is the time to preserve ourselves for winter and here are a few ways to do it:
Take photos of things that make you happy
A nice flower, a sunny moment – whatever brings you joy. Turn these photos into collages, make a slideshow, or create albums for gifts. Go one step further and paint pictures of the photos you take. Use watercolours, pen, and pencil and recreate the images on canvas. A friend of mine has been doing this and she says seeing the painting grow helps calm her and makes her happy.
Experiment with different foods
I’ve recently taken up jam making as strawberries are available well into the winter months where I live. I bought a selection of fruit and jars with my husband and I find that doing things with my hands trains my cognitive functions.
It’s surprisingly relaxing having to wash the fruit, mash and cook them, add the sugar and fill the jars with the finished jam. We’ve had our first tasting and we think it tastes like a summer’s day. Other people in our group have started making pickles. Pickled cucumber, corn and pumpkin. We’ve exchanged these items among ourselves, posting them to each other’s’ houses as a surprise or leaving them on the doorstep. They make lovely little gifts, handmade with love.
Foraging for mushrooms is another great idea. Head out into the woods. Let the silence calm you and breathe in the fresh air. Not only is getting out into nature great for your mental health, but picking wild mushrooms and taking them home to enjoy with scrambled eggs, for example, is a great way to bring nature indoors. Be careful with the mushrooms, however. Not all of them are safe to eat so make sure to check against guidelines before you forage!
Experience walking in nature
Consider collecting leaves, branches, and flowers that you can dry and use to decorate the house. One of the ladies in our group isn’t as physically able as she’d like to be, but each day she gets out for a 30-minute walk with her frame, to help keep her legs healthy. As she walks, she collects all types of things that she uses to make floral arrangements, or as dried decorations for card making. It keeps her busy and creative and she’s even made items that she sells online.
Writing is another key activity touted by our group as a helpful tool for dealing with difficult times. A member of the group has started to sit down in nature and write little poems. Some of them have been published in the local newspaper, while others have been used on gift cards made by another member. It’s created a lovely sense of collaboration between them and a sense of purpose.
No matter what you decide to do, whether it’s crocheting a warm blanket, turning summer poems into winter stories, or cooking with seasonal produce, concentrating on an activity that you enjoy is likely going to have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing.
This year we weren’t able to travel to make new memories, but we can look back at the memories we’ve already made and relive those moments of happiness throughout the winter months. More often than not we’ll see good things where we might not have seen them before. And this is something that’s more important now than ever before.
This year, I’m spending my free time on a knitting project, knitting socks for friends. What will you do that you enjoy?
NPS-IE-NP-00181 December 2022