Depending on where in the world you work during winter, the cold and dark days might seem endless. Having grown up in sunny Florida, moving to Sweden was a huge change, particularly with regard to the climate. Working long shifts during winter time can really dampen ones affect, especially if you are working as a travel nurse in a cold and unfamiliar climate. When those sunny days are few and far between, what can you do?
With the help and expertise of Swedish friends and family through the years, I have learned to embrace the short days and make the best of them. Here are just a few ways that I hope will help you as well.
There is a famous saying in Sweden, “det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder.” It essentially means there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. In other words, with the right amount of layers, there is no excuse not to get outside. Swedes find every opportunity to get outside and walk. Coming from an automobile rich society, I was reluctant at first to all the walks. Soon enough I began to understand what every Swede has always known. Getting outside and walking in nature gives time for relaxation and reflection. Walking alone releases endorphins and improves mood, sleep, and self-esteem. It is a perfect way to ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder. Find a nature reserve near you or bundle up and take a stroll along your favorite beach.
My favorite word is Swedish is called mysig. It means coziness and is best represented in the dark days of winter. Create a cozy area in your home. Indoor plants are a great way to bring life in to an otherwise dormant outside. Candles are a great and easy way to light up the darkness. If you have a fireplace, why not use it? The sounds, smell, and sight of a crackling fire are so relaxing. My husband and I do not have a fireplace, but sometimes when we are cooking dinner together, we turn on a virtual fireplace on our Apple TV. It surprisingly has a truly relaxing effect.
Make plans to get out and meet friends. Whether it is lunch or coffee, force yourself on your days off to get out of the house. When I first moved to Sweden, I just wanted to stay inside during the winter. It was too cold to go outside I thought. Hibernation is not the key to surviving winter. It is a quick downward spiral to Seasonal Affective Disorder. On your days off, get out even just for a bit.
Take Care of Mind & Body
Winter has a drying effect on the skin and body. Be sure to stay extra hydrated. Drink plenty of water. Avoid long hot showers or baths. Be sure to moisturize after you shower. Even the lips can become dry and cracked. Use a moisturizer on your lips as well. Exercise, exercise, exercise!! Whether it’s a walk or a short but daily yoga practice, make a commitment to take care of your mind as well as body.
It is easy in winter to fill up on empty carbs and high calorie foods. I find my body just craves more calories and junk in winter. Try to balance these cravings with healthy choices as well. Pick one day a week where you eat whatever you want or crave. On the other days, make healthier choices like fruit and nuts for snacks and hearty soups instead of the heavy carbs.
Here is to surviving what’s left of winter! What are some of your favorite winter survival tips?