Thriving in the darker days can refer to many things when speaking figuratively, but with Winter fast approaching here in the northern hemisphere, I’m quite literally referring to a season that, if you’re an immigrant from the south, perhaps you don’t love everything about winter.
The quick fix I always hear is that we should take up skiing or snowboarding because then we get out, get exercise and are more likely to see the sunshine higher up in the mountains. I do not dispute this reasoning because I understand that changes in scenery, exercise and good ole sunshine is great for our mental health; but some of us simply don’t enjoy those sports, maybe can’t afford it, or choose life – I’m partially joking, but there’s a reason why insurance companies ask whether you plan on skiing for your snowy vacations.
It’s not just immigrants who may struggle with the cold and dark winter months of many northern hemisphere countries, but immigrants from warmer climate countries not only have not adapted, but they may also not know how to or what they need to adapt to. Here are some tips that I learnt along the way:
Learn from me, don’t skimp on proper winter gear because it can mean the difference between having fun versus being cold and miserable. I made the mistake of buying any cheap brands initially and it’s honestly best to get reviews from locals on the best boots, jackets and gloves that will keep you warm and dry.
We made the mistake when we arrived in Canada of buying a rear-wheel-drive car that simply didn’t perform well in snow and icy conditions, particularly on inclines. My suggestion is to purchase four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive cars and do your homework around appropriate tires for your vehicle.
There is lots one can learn about the best snow shovels, whether to invest in a snow plough or not (and which one), driving tips for icy conditions etc. This is not a season that I would wing it, especially when it comes to safety.
Don’t dry out
Like I mentioned, if you come from almost all, if not all, southern hemisphere countries, you won’t be familiar with central heating. It took my family years to realise that the lower humidity in our home, due to central heating (and it would be the same for electric heating) was impacting our health. As soon as we purchased a humidifier, our sinuses were clearer over the winter months. You could also get away with placing containers of water near heat sources or running diffusers as well.
Indoor or outdoor
Try to brave the outdoors for walking, hiking, snowshoeing, skating, or sledding, if you choose not to take on skiing or snowboarding. If you truly hate the cold, sign up to indoor sports or activities to ensure that you keep your body moving while being social, versus just working out at home. Or if you still prefer working out at home, just consider scheduling yourself for any events or activities that will get you out the house. My family is quite happy to hermit during the colder months’, but it starts impacting our mental health.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Talking of mental health, some of us just get the occasional winter blues but SAD is a real thing. Consulting your health practitioner is advisable if you suspect you could be suffering from SAD.
If you’d like to avoid medication as a first resort for this seasonal depression, perhaps investigate alternative solutions. When it comes to vitamin D, there seems to be some debate around whether synthetic vitamin D is safe to use; what I have personally chosen is to use an organic whole food vitamin D supplement instead, just to be on the safe side. It’s worthy of more research and I’ll always advocate for those who choose to do extensive research when it comes to supplements and medication.
Another reasonably inexpensive option could be purchasing a SAD lamp, although I have no personal experience with that.
Here’s information on SAD that a good percentage of the population is likely not educated on:
All this said, I would hate to leave things on a negative note. I truly love the different seasons here and there is something for everyone, even if it’s just the beautiful white scenery. For me, Christmas is just the best in Canada because of how the décor and songs fit with our winter and environment. I’m a real sucker for a real Christmas tree too and if you happen to be in a country where it’s now common to source a fresh tree, enjoy the experience of cutting one down perhaps, and the fragrance it brings to your home!