I am entirely convinced that winter is a season better suited to polar bears than to human beings.
Surviving winter is serious business. The harsh winter climes can get you down, and have you feeling like you want to hit pause on life and wake up in sunnier times.
Granted, before I moved to Norway I never gave much thought to what it takes to get through minus degree weather but let’s just say that I have given a lot of mental and pocket real estate to this subject over the past couple of years.
Here is my winter survival guide. A guide to surviving winter, a toolkit to help you survive those long harsh winters, with some of my specific recommendations. Think of this Winter Toolkit as a progression of steps, from head to toe to soul, on your way up to ultimate winter comfort and survival.
1. A class-act lipbalm
Yep, that’s right. The good old chapstick, or variations thereof, makes it to Number 1. There’s nothing more disconcerting than a pair of chapped, peeling lips. You stare at them, try to lick them (if they are yours), or try to kiss them (if there are someone else’s) and just don’t know what to do with them! It feels like your lips are not yours.
So, how do you take back your lips? Here is how. Invest in a superb lipbalm. Apply it generously. For you ladies, it is perfect when the lipstick/lipgloss is moisturising enough that you only need one product. Your face is the first thing people will usually see, keep it in good form.
Talking about faces and first impressions, this brings me to number 2.
2. A rich moisturiser
Let’s stay a while longer on the subject of not wanting broken skin. Cold temperatures are very dehydrating, and if you like indulging in the good old alcohol, there is some more dehydration for you there. Just when you’re thinking you’ll take some of that good stuff to warm you up from the inside in these cold months, it is instead dehydrating you too. Most men may not care much about dusty skin but you ladies, you my friends may want to lather up on some good moisturiser, and not just for your face but the whole body too. For my face, I continue to swear by moisturisers from LaRoche Posay and Avene, and Biotherm Antidrying Body Milk for all body moisturising.
Now that your skin is nice and supple, and you don’t look like a moulting snake, it’s time to suit up – and here is where all your money is going to go.
3. Woollen tights, woollen camisoles, woollen slips, woollen socks.
Basically, woollen everything. Under your regular clothes too, that is.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from life in a Scandinavian winter it is the absolute, mood-altering, joy-giving, life-saving necessity of wool. You can wear just about anything that you can layer as long as you have wool underneath it. Coming from sunny warm countries, I had always felt a bit sad about missing out on the rest of my outfits if I had to wear heavy warm clothes in Norway, especially since Bergen is rainy even in the summer. This city can have over 250 days of rain a year, and I get cold very easily. Suffice it to say I could not see how I was going to thrive in this city.
And then I got introduced to layering with woollen underclothes, something that many people do, a lot of them even way after winter. It is a common saying up here in Norway that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. Yeah, tell me about it. If you’re moving to Scandinavia, wool will save your life. It costs a pretty penny but your lungs, and your entire being will thank you.
Layer up, smartly. I can tell you from experience, 3 layers of cotton are no good. Wool is it. In the north, wool is synonymous with surviving winter.
4. Vitamin D
And a trip to the doctor, if you need it. It is common knowledge that the body needs sunlight to manufacture Vitamin D, and it goes without saying that with less sunlight we make less Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for bone production and maintenance, and conversely affects calcium balance in the body. So get yourself to the pharmacy and stock up on an appropriate dose strength of Vitamin D. You may even need to get your Vitamin D levels checked, just to make sure you’re getting enough and that your bones are not going to fail you sooner than you expected. In line with this, I want to encourage those affected by seasonal depression to go see a doctor during this time. There’s help, and hope.
5. Get a visual-tactile hobby to stimulate the senses
The harsh winter could send you in to hibernating mode alright, but have you ever heard of use-it-or-lose it? Let me catch you up. If you don’t use some skills/gifts, you stand a great chance of losing them. Listen, even the bible says so, no lies. You gotta use what you have or your brain goes dull. Don’t get too comfortable, it might not be doing your lifespan any favours.
So, sharpen up. Here’s how. Start doing something that involves both sight and touch. I am not talking about going for a massage, that does not need your eye-sight funny bean!
Start drawing. Start knitting, start yoga, or in my case, recommit; pickup an in-door sport. What have you always wanted to do that you have been putting off for years? Pick it up. Start writing – prose, poetry, reflections, short stories.
Read a book. Paper, digital, whichever you choose, you will still need your hands to move the pages along. Visual-tactile. Binging on series is not. Sounds corny and cliché but a good book can save a grey day. Add some chai masala tea and there is a slice of heaven!
6. Stock up on joy-filled activities.
Most people would say make sure to leave the house during winter months too, don’t get stuck in doors. I agree, but only to the extent that it makes you happy. I see people jogging during the winter snow, rain, it doesn’t maatter to them. Miss me with that, honey. And I do love running, but not in minus degree weather. Out running in the cold is not my definition of how to cheer up. But you know, different folks different srokes. It may be something for you. Staying in-doors all the time can give you cabin fever, and can exacerbate seasonal depression for those who suffer from it, so a stroll out to get some fresh air is exactly what the doctor ordered. Surviving winter means doing your best to thrive even when it’s dull and grey outside.
One last thing:
7. A luxurious hand lotion
Have you ever reached out to sign a document in front of someone only to realise that your hand looks ashen and does not match your perfectly moisturised, contoured face and rosy lips. Oh, the embarassment! Suddenly the other person is looking at you and thinking, “wow, she did look like quite well put together but those hands are definitely something else.” No, don’t let that be thought of you.
I have tried a bunch of hand lotions and NUXE Nutriance Ultra, that stuff is the truth. What’s more, my hands tend to get darker than the rest of me, especially during the winter. Well, not this winter honey! I have added Clarins to the tool box and I’m hoping for wonders.
In short, for me, surviving winter means stoking up on things that bring comfort, wellness and joy. How do you get through the winter months?