What to Keep in Mind as Winter Approaches If You Have Chronic Pain

Like many of us with chronic pain and illness, I find myself dreading the approach of winter. But I’ve survived five of them since becoming ill, and I will survive this one, too, God willing. So I’ve been considering how to replace some of that fear and dread with a more welcoming mindset. Here are some self reminders I’ve found helpful:

Stay in the day. Winter has not yet arrived, so continue to enjoy the autumn, which has been lovely. Here in Iowa, the cold and ice may arrive by mid-November or may hold off until late December. Don’t mentally bring it on sooner than nature has scheduled.

I’m prepared on a practical level. I know to move carefully, very carefully, when outdoors. I don’t mind looking odd taking baby steps over the ice with flexed knees, arms out for balance. I’m also equipped for the cold, with long underwear, boots and hand and foot warmers. My husband and I have a small home and thankfully agree that keeping it adequately heated is worth the expense. I also have electric blankets, one for sleeping and a throw for day use. A space heater for the bathroom eases the transition out of the shower.

I recognize that we cannot all live in California or Florida – it would be too crowded! So I’m doing my part by inhabiting the Midwest. In any case, the warmer states have their environmental problems, too.

People often say what they really hate about winter is the driving. But as someone who, prior to illness, lived for years without a car, I’m always tempted to respond, “Try getting through the winter on bicycle, moped or bus!” I am so very grateful these days to have reliable, warm transportation.

Winter can be beautiful. This is easy to forget when I am focused on its threatening aspects. I lived in Washington, D.C. for 17 years. I appreciated the mild winters. But when it snowed, it never lasted long. And I noticed after moving back to Iowa that snow in milder climates never really sparkles. It may be small recompense, but I will take the time to admire those magical sparkles blanketing the land when the temperature dips below 20.

Finally, I remind myself that this too shall pass. Seasons change. As of the winter solstice, December 21st of this year, the days will grow longer. We’ll be headed toward spring! I’ll continue to take it a day at a time, and before I know it, the weather will be mild. And then I will truly appreciate each day of spring, summer and fall, for I know they, too, will pass. Winter will roll around again, and when it does, I will endeavor to welcome it as just another part of this challenging but beautiful, precious life.

Winter, you will never be my favorite guest. But I will do my best to graciously receive you each year, and then gladly bid you good-bye come spring.

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