It’s dang cold. Butt-cold, Nathan calls it. Solid weeks of never climbing beyond single-digit degrees Fahrenheit here in icy Saint Paul. But over my many years surviving Minnesota winters, I’ve learned a thing or two and thought I’d share some tips here.
Get outside. I usually walk my fifth-grader to school, a little over a mile away. It’s functional exercise, which is my favorite kind. This morning when the temperature was around zero F, I wore two pairs of yoga pants with a pair of wind pants over top, a zillion layers of shirts, this high-viz light jacket, and a down vest over top.
Thick socks and boots outfitted with these nifty GripOns (thrift store find – YakTrax is another brand, I have no idea how all the brands compare, but these work great), and a hat and neoprene face mask and a hood to top it off. Light gloves with one fingertip cut out for phone use (or all fingerless) under heavier mittens to make a little haven for your hands. Tuck in some earbuds and load up a podcast or music, or enjoy the peace and quiet of your winter walk.
Getting your body outside in the winter is totally worth the time and effort it takes to dress for it. Exercise. Fresh air. Change of scenery. The joy of the unexpected – you never know what you might find, see or hear out there. And along with the extreme cold of days like this, usually comes the gift of sunshine. But even when it’s gray, it’s brighter out there than inside. And if there’s snow, that brightens everything up.
There’s really nothing like walking in woods in the winter. Just make sure you use the facilities before you leave the house, unless you’re a dog, that is.
Cozy up inside. Even though I make a point to get outside every day, winter means spending more time indoors. So we might as well enjoy our living spaces. Make a place for your favorite books, and read them. Get rid of the rest (space is better than clutter). Walk to the library when you want something new.
Open your curtains. Even if it’s not a sunny day, bring in whatever daylight you can. If it is a sunny day, don’t you dare leave those windows covered! You’re not only missing out on light but also heat. And a boatload of cheer.
Snuggle your loved ones. Warmth and oxytocin and all-around happy vibes are yours for the asking if you live with people or pets.
Hydrate. Moisturize. Repeat. We’re using a humidifier for the first time this winter. You can see it on top of my bookshelf in the photo above. Nothing fancy, just an old one I had in the closet for nighttime sleeping comfort when someone was sick. But I think it’s upped the comfort level in our house and lowered the amount of nosebleeds and dry skin we experience.
One of my very favorite purchases I’ve made in recent years is that electric kettle in the leftmost picture above. We use it every day, throughout the day, this time of year – and many spring and fall evenings too. Stock up on herbal tea for comfy evenings at home. Premix instant oats, brown sugar, a bit of salt and whatever dried fruit & nuts appeal to you; scoop some into your breakfast bowl, boil water in the kettle, pour over, eat.
Every time I shower I slather on the lotion afterwards. Shea butter is great for deeper moisturizing – I use it on rough dry heels and chapped lips. I like to mix shea butter and coconut oil (scoop some of each in a glass measuring cup, microwave till they melt, stir together and pour out into a small container) and use that on my face every day. You can add some essential oil if you like to be fancy.
Layer, layer, layer. Long underwear and good socks are worth the investment. Most winter days I wear a tank top, a T-shirt or long underwear top, a pullover hoodie, possibly a thin sweater (wool blend is great), and another sweatshirt or fleece over all that. If I’m moving around, that’s usually enough (we keep the heat around 64 F at home). If I’m sitting still, I add a down vest and possibly a hat or hood. And slippers are a must. Also keep your neck warm! I like flexible clothing like the fleece above with the collar I can fold up or down. Or a scarf or cowl-type thingie.
If you’re lucky enough to have radiators, you probably know how exquisite it feels to get out of the shower and put on clothes you’ve stowed on the radiator. I like to set my shoes upside-down on the radiator before I go outside too. And jammies on the radiator before bed – especially this me-sized blanket sleeper I was lucky enough to find a couple years ago! (It has glow-in-the-dark rocket ships!)
Make indoor activity accessible. Set up a stationary bike or better yet, find a bike trainer (ours was a garage sale find so I don’t have any tips on brands) and you can set up your own bike to be stationary. We set up our smallest bike in the living room, and anybody in the family can jump on and pedal when they feel like it.
We also love exercise balls – first used them to birth and bounce our babies (worked way better than rocking chairs for calming our cranky infants!), but now they are great for a little active sitting. You have to work a bit harder to sit on an exercise ball than on a couch. (They also make nice footrests!)
If you have stairs, run them! Challenge yourself – see how many times you can run up and down without stopping. (I’m at eleven right now!) This can be part of a full-on indoor workout (add some core exercises like planks and pushups), or just something you do now and then throughout the day to warm up and move a little bit.
Find or construct a hangboard and work on your pullups. (I can’t do any!) Nathan made this one (in the middle photo above) from two rock climbing holds he bought, bolted to a board he salvaged from the cabinet shop he worked for.
Mini-trampolines are great for mini-people. And not-so-mini-people, if your floor can handle it (cement basement floor, I’d suggest!). I’m afraid even our smallest family member is getting too heavy to continue using this trampoline on the second floor where we have it now 🙂
And then there’s all the great winter eating. This post is long enough already but I’ll just say, soups and stews are your friends! Here’s one of my very favorite soup recipes, the closest I could find to the Niskena that I love at Babani’s, a local Kurdish restaurant (but this version is still not as good as theirs, so you should check them out!). I sometimes use fresh onion in place of the dry. And “orange lentils” are I think more commonly called “red lentils.” It’s so easy! And cheap! And good for you! And delicious, hot, creamy, filling.
Oh and keep lots of fresh fruit sitting out in your kitchen. Cheery colors, good-for-you sweetness, easy to grab and eat something good.
Do you live somewhere where winter can be fierce? How do you cope? Share your thoughts in the comments!