Your Northwest Winter Survival Kit

By Dr. Jennifer Tufenkian, N.D.

What a summer we've had! I've spent months with the doors and windows open, enjoying evenings in the hammock on my front porch. At first I felt resistance to the season's departure, thinking, "I'm not ready for winter!" But now that fall has arrived, I remember: transition. This is a season of transition into the dark, the center. It is a season for releasing that which we no longer need such as emotions, toxins, habits, it is a time to regroup, and get ready to restore our strength during the winter. I know that many people in the Pacific Northwest fear the rain, as well as the sense of stagnancy and lowered mood from SAD. There is so much we can do to help ourselves and each other to keep the winter blues from taking over our lives. Here are a few suggestions.

Your Northwest Winter Survival Kit

It's all in the gear: Get kitted out for a good year in Oregon. This is my advice to all of my patients who are new to the area --- Purchase clothes that will help make you comfortable in the wet and the cold. Get a breathable waterproof jacket, or a big rain poncho, shoes, and a good hat or umbrella. Columbia Outlet can have some great deals.

Get out in it and get into it: I mean the rain. Really embrace it. It is lovely. Notice the sound it makes on your hat, how the smell of the air changes before, after, and during a rain. Remember that water is the source of all life, and we are in a place of abundance! After your walk, make a cup of tea and feel the coziness of a warm drink, warm body, and rain pattering down.

See the light: I know, it can get gray here. But being outside every day for at least 20 minutes, even when it's overcast, can help your mood. A full-spectrum light really helps as well. I set mine up while I do my morning yoga routine, or if I'm having a paper workday, I keep it on in my office. Use as instructed; you don't want to overdo it.

Keep moving: We want to honor the season and slow down, but it's important to keep the chi flowing with regular daily exercise. Study after study show that exercise helps with mood, hormone balancing, blood sugar, libido... 20 to 60 minutes a day. It feels so good and keeps the winter blues away. Find what works for you.

Yoga: Find a local studio and make it a regular visit, or use a DVD at home.

Night walks with family: This is our favorite family ritual after dinner and before bed. We often gather a few other kids from the neighborhood and walk for 20 minutes. Makes for a nice time to relax, smell the air, and see the sky. Plus, it helps everyone sleep better.
Instead of meeting for coffee, meet for a walk.

Get back to the gym: Beat the January rush!

Connect with others: Find the inner light that warms the soul and reach out to create social time with friends and family. Quality interactions with others releases stress by increasing oxytocin --- our feel-good hormone --- which helps your mood and your immune system. Experiment to see what works for you: regular tea/walk dates with friends, board-game night with neighbors, a rotating monthly potluck, a craft party?

With these ideasĀ (and your own creative additions) in your Northwest Winter Survival Kit you are ready to meet the season ahead with grace. And remember this season is for letting go of that which we no longer need, so take the extra time for reflection and self-care. Enjoy this beautiful season of transition.

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