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23 October 2018

Ten top tips for the colder seasons

We've compiled a list of tips for you that try and reduce the impact of the changing seasons.

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Fall  means cozy cardigans, candles, beautiful colors and roaring fires.

But the changing seasons and short, cold days can be difficult for some people, especially when it makes the following elements of the Overcoming MS Program more challenging. For example:

  • It can be harder to get enough sun to get your vitamin D daily fix
  • It can become more difficult to get enough exercise, particularly outside with the change in weather
  • Some people experience low mood or even seasonal affective disorder in winter

The winter months can be really hard for many – up to 10% of the US population suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD.

We’ve compiled a list of tips for you below that try and reduce the impact of the changing seasons.

Ten Top Tips

1. Embrace the hygge trend

You may have already heard of this cosy trend from Demark. Hygge means celebrating the season by creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.

The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. So is cosying up with a loved one to watch a movie, sharing a meal with friends and family, or reading a book under a blanket with a cup of tea or coffee.

2. Vitamin D and Omega-3 

Continue to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D and omega-3 in your diet (as recommended in the Program).  Read more about the mind-body connection here.

  • If you can’t get the required vitamin D from sun, take a D3 supplement. We recommend that people with MS should take in 5,000-10,000 IU of vitamin D each day. This is equal to being in strong sunlight three to five times weekly for 10-15 minutes each time.
  • Ensure you are getting enough omega-3 through your diet . Take flaxseed oil as recommended, and make sure to eat fish, nuts and other foods containing omega-3.

3. Seek out the light

Try to get as much natural light as you can throughout the winter –  pull back those curtains, sit near the window when you’re indoors and get outside as much as possible.

Some people choose to use a special SAD lamp for light therapy which emits a very bright cool light. It’s thought the light may improve SAD by encouraging your brain to reduce the production of melatonin (a hormone that makes you sleepy) and increase the production of serotonin (a hormone that affects your mood).

4. Try and get outside, whatever the weather

As the saying goes, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” Put on your waterproof, scarf, and boots and get outside whatever the weather. Exercise, natural light and fresh air are all good for the soul.

5. Keep meditating

Research has shown that meditation and mindfulness can help with depression, pain, compassion and happiness, and can ‘rewire’ the brain. The Overcoming MS Program recommends 30 minutes per day, find some meditation tips from Alison here.

6. Plan something to look forward to

My grandma suffers with the seasons so she organizes a Merry Midwinter celebration with family on December 21st each year to celebrate the days beginning to get longer again.  A holiday, a trip or something else can keep your spirits up. If you can travel somewhere for winter sun, even better.

7. Cook some Overcoming MS-friendly comfort food recipes

Try to eat healthily as this can help improve your mood and keep your body healthy. These recipes might help you stave off those food cravings.

8. Be mindful of your alcohol intake

While alcohol is absolutely fine to drink in moderation for people following Overcoming MS, it is important to remember that alcohol can act as a depressant  – regular, heavy drinking interferes with neurotransmitters in our brains that are needed for good mental health.

If you’re feeling a bit down, alcohol may enhance these symptoms, particularly the next day. It is best to be mindful and avoid alcohol entirely if your mood is low.

Moderation is key but can seem a bit of a vague concept. In terms of general health guidelines, ‘moderation’ means not more than two standard drinks a day, with at least two alcohol-free days a week.

9. Change up your exercise routine

It might be tempting to reduce the amount of exercise you do in the winter months as there is less daylight and the temperatures tumble. However, exercising can be a great way of beating those winter blues and the endorphins released during exercise will boost your mood. We suggest 30 minutes of exercise, three to five times per week but any exercise is better than none.

If you usually exercise outside, why not join the gym, try an exercise class or an indoor pool? Or you can always invest in a good jacket or gloves to brave the elements.

If you can, embrace the winter and try a winter sport such as ice-skating or skiing?

10. Keep warm

Some people with MS experience heightened sensitivity to the cold and more noticeable symptoms. Keep warm by wearing removable layers, keeping a hot water bottle on your lap and/or moving around regularly.