Incorporate these winter self-care tips into your life to improve your mind, body, and overall wellness this season.
I feel like every winter things can get rough. The frigid temperatures set in, the lack of sunshine leaves the skies (and us) gloomy, and we all feel a little more cooped up. Especially with different sicknesses going around, it’s especially important this year to follow a winter self-care routine.
For me, self care is simple and comes naturally. It’s not about spending loads of money on a spa day or getting so toasted off cocktails you can’t remember your middle name. I take a very practical approach to it.
The way I see it is that if my gas tank is nearly empty, I can’t go anywhere until I fill it up first. I think of my own health in the same way. Prioritizing our own rest and enjoyment is not only necessary, but it can be an amazingly rewarding and rejuvenating practice.
Winter self care, especially, can feel challenging though.
Luckily, I have you covered with a few of my personal favorite winter self care tips. These are just some things I like to incorporate into my life during the winter months…
Winter Self Care Tips
Comforting, nutritious meals
One important part of my winter self-care routine is creating and eating nutritious meals. I love warm comfort food in the winter months, so I make my favorite delicious meals. I am careful to add in more nutrients to the dish or add more roasted vegetables on the side to eat with it, though.
One thing about nutrition that so many get wrong is thinking it’s about removing things from your diet, when in fact it’s about adding more nutrients and variety in. You can eat both comfort foods and nourishing ones… and sometimes they are both at the same time.
Stews or soups are perfect for this time of year, as are casseroles and one-pot meals in the cast iron skillet. Winter is the peak time for some of the best meals. Just don’t forget to add in the necessary fiber our bodies crave, which can easily be done by adding in vegetables, fruits, nuts & seeds, and whole grains.
Restful sleep, cat naps, and plain old rest
I prioritize sleep and stick to a sleep schedule most of the time. I do give myself some leeway, but I do use it as a guideline to be in bed between 9-10, and up between 6-7 everyday. It depends what I have going on, of course, but allows me to make sleep a priority.
I usually don’t do naps anymore, even though I love a long nap in the middle of the day. This has been known to keep me from falling asleep at night. However, if I slept poorly the night before, I’ll set a timer and let myself sleep for 20-30 minutes in the afternoon (never later than 3 o’clock, though). And when I get a few minutes to just rest, I comply.
I take advantage of those small pockets of time in the day to let my mind relax and just wander instead of plan, think, and go, go, go.
I recently wrote a post about how to make DIY sugar scrubs, and it’s a great way to take care of skin this time of year. Winter can wreak havoc on our skin, drying it out and leaving it red from extreme cold temperatures.
I love using my sugar scrub recipe on my body when I’m in the shower, preferably once a week. The oils moisturize and the sugar exfoliates. It’s a perfect combination.
I will caution that I never use this on my face. I have sensitive skin and have been diagnosed with rosacea, so exfoliators only cause more inflammation on my face. Even if you don’t have sensitive skin, I would caution you about using exfoliators unless you’re working with a dermatologist. The skin on our face is much more sensitive and less forgiving than that on the rest of our body. Sometimes less is more and the last thing you’ll want is to irritate skin even more in the wintertime.
Vitamin D and multivitamin daily (plus all the water)
Did you know vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble nutrient the body needs for our bones and our immune system to function properly? It plays a huge part in recovery when we get sick, which makes this vitamin very necessary in the winter months. Although some foods are supplemented with it, most of us need a multivitamin with vitamin D, too. (Very few foods naturally have vitamin D in them.)
The body will produce its own vitamin D if a person were to get enough sunshine each day (about 15 minutes), but in many parts of the world this is hard to do. I personally take the Ritual prenatal multivitamin (since I’m a woman of childbearing age), which contains vitamin D-3 (which is plant based and more easily converted than vitamin D-2), along with 11 other essential vitamins and minerals. But I also take an additional vitamin D-3 supplement, too, during the in winter. (Just be sure to check with your doctor first, since overdosing on vitamins can be toxic.)
A few years ago I went to the doctor with joint aches and pains I’d had for weeks (plus lots of inflammation and allergy-like symptoms that just wouldn’t go away). It turned out my vitamin D levels were very low. I had to take a very high dose of prescription vitamin D-3 for a couple of months and to this day I prioritize this vitamin in my diet.
It’s not an uncommon deficiency for anyone of any age, so better safe than sorry!
It also helps to stay hydrated, so drink as much water as your body needs. My body and mind just feel better when I stay hydrated. I get headaches if I’ve forgotten to drink enough that day. It just helps everything in the body stay regulated.
Date nights with my husband
Human connection with a partner is what gives us life, literally. Studies have shown over and over again that people who are (happily) married live longer lives than others. This could be due to several factors, but I’m betting the moral support and connection help a lot by lowering stress levels.
Don’t get me wrong, being married is work. There are stressful times, but a marriage should not be stressful all the time. When a relationship is strong and healthy, this quality time together can improve overall health.
Having this special quality time, that we all so desperately need but sometimes forget about, is so good for the soul. It’s the glue that keeps us together. It feels good to trust someone else, to love someone else, and to put them before others.
AJ and I have been trying harder lately to go on dates at least twice a month, even if it’s just to dinner or a museum, and it’s been wonderful. We’ve also been connecting more spiritually which has been amazing. We’ve been taking time once a week or so to attend a service or tune in virtually together.
It doesn’t have to be overly romantic or outrageous, just good fun. It’s all about cultivating and maintaining that strong connection.
What I would give to have a full day of absolutely nothing but reading! This would be pure bliss to me.
When I get a few minutes throughout my day, I try to make time for reading. I’m currently reading Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, the ninth Outlander novel in the series. It is a LONG book, but I figure if I chip away at it, a little at a time, I’ll finish it eventually.
But seriously, if you enjoy reading, if it relaxes you and helps calm your mind, make time for this simple pleasure. Check out your local library, too, so you aren’t spending a lot of extra money on this calming pastime.
Catching up with family
Spending quality time with family or catching up with a friend can be the perfect way to practice some winter self care. Sometimes we all just need to lean in and connect with others (yes, that includes us introverts!).
Connecting with loved ones can be healing. Especially the little ones. Even if you don’t have your own children, you probably have children somewhere in your family to have fun and play with. Seek them out.
Sometimes my 2-year-old nephew brings out the best in me. He reminds me what it’s like to be a kid again and helps me make having fun a priority. There are always so many laughs when he’s around!
So do yourself a favor and make time for children, pets, grandparents, anyone in your family that is willing to spend time with you–and make the most of it. Do something spontaneous with them.
Baking (or your favorite hobby)
Besides reading, I absolutely love baking. Since I’m accustomed to baking from scratch and have even developed some of my own baking recipes, it’s comfortable and soothing to me. To someone else this could be stressful and no fun at all.
The key is to find your passion and stick with it. Practice, practice, practice. Even when you’re making mistakes in the beginning, if you enjoy it enough none of that will matter. Having something like this to turn to, in the darkest of seasons, is a huge part of building resilience and coping skills in life.
With all the rest and relaxation, it’s also important to move the body most days. I’m at a stage in life where a six pack and muscles aren’t my priority like they were five years ago. Yes, I was that person that did cardio for an hour at the gym, lifted weights, and added in high-intensity yoga with headstands. I did it all.
Nowadays, I don’t do anything extreme. I enjoy walks alone or with my husband, though I usually can’t convince myself to go if it’s below 50 degrees outside.
However, my husband recently gifted me a mini trampoline that I requested before the holidays, and I’ve made the small goal of jumping for ten minutes per day (most days) on it. Supplement this with a yoga, dance, or Pilates video for free on YouTube and you’re set.
Even setting a small goal to get active is beneficial. Create an achievable goal that is easy enough to do most days, but challenging enough to get your heart rate up. Once I get active I end up having a blast. I turn up some music or watch a YouTube video while I jump and the time flies. I’m able to get my heart rate up in just a few minutes, it energizes me, and it doesn’t wear me out for the entire day.
Find something like this you enjoy. It will give you that quick dose of dopamine and serotonin your brain craves.
Pockets of fresh air and nature
Steal these moments when an unusually warm winter day arrives. Maybe it’s even just late afternoon and the sun is in full bloom. Sit outside for just 15 minutes to breathe some fresh air, hear the birds chirp, and soak up the sunshine.
Being outside is really good for grounding.
I do some of my best relaxation outside because it’s so much more quiet and less distracting. Be sure to leave electronics inside and just focus on the environment directly surrounding you, even if you’re just watching a couple of squirrels chase one another. Moments like this brighten my day and help keep me present.
Bonus: a short weekend getaway if you have the means
Unfortunately, vacation time and money can be short this time of year following the holidays. With careful planning, perhaps a nearby town for a night or two is feasible and can be done safely, though.
If you decide to splurge and take a little trip, there are frugal ways to do this.
Travel by car, so you won’t have to pay for a flight. Rent an affordable private cabin for a night or two. Stock the rental home with food if you don’t want to pay for restaurants.
For fun, find free things to do. If you bundle up, you can still go on hikes in the area you’re staying. You could even book a private spa day for you and your partner. Even many museums are free and are a great way to soak up the history and culture.
As you can see, most of my winter self-care tips aren’t by any means extravagant.
They’re all pretty low cost, but they will take some time in your day. That’s because we need to invest in spending more time on ourselves. To grow, recharge, and to just rest.
It’s easy to keep these in mind and much harder to actually put into practice. I just hope these simple winter self care ideas are able to bring you some solace and joy, though.
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