The title of a recent Alaska Dispatch News article “Signs point to a cooler-than-normal Alaska winter, thanks to another La Nina” is enough to trigger a range of emotions in Alaskans. Whether you’re an Arctic cold weather enthusiast or prefer your ice in a drink, winter can be hard. As busy parents, professionals with full-time careers, or dedicated students, we’ve all got a lot on our plate. Add to that the special challenges of extended darkness, scraping ice, shoveling, vehicle maintenance, frozen plumbing, and keeping our bodies warm, and it can all just feel exhausting. It’s tempting to hibernate and isolate any chance we get. The problem with this temptation is that we still have the same physical, social, spiritual, and emotional needs year-round. Hiding away in our warm homes too long can lead to feelings of fatigue, loneliness, and general self-criticism (usually about avoiding positive activities). Now is the time to make a winter self-care game plan. See these suggestions for a happy and healthy winter ahead.

1. Have an ongoing scheduled social activity, and go to it! Cold weather and lack of daylight can really cut into your motivation to be spontaneous. At least twice a month join a social activity you enjoy and are expected to attend. Whether you want to ski with buddies, crochet with neighbors, have a book club around a fire, or form a weeknight prayer group at church, schedule social dates and stick to them. It may be hard to leave the house, but you’ll be happy you went.

2. Careful with alcohol. A hot toddy on a cold night may be appealing, but one too many can lead to a hangover. Nothing kills motivation and leads to the blues like a hangover when it’s dark 21 hours of the day.

3. Exercise and eat fruits and veggies! Get outside for a few minutes, especially in the middle of the day, to soak up some winter daylight. Talk to your doctor about any vitamins or supplements you consider taking. Keeping your body strong and healthy in winter will make the warm weather activities all the more enjoyable when spring and summer roll around again.

Of course, if it fits in the budget, a mid-winter getaway to somewhere sunny helps too. If you struggle with seasonal sadness or lack of motivation that significantly impairs your life there is support in our community. To meet with a professional at Hope Counseling Center call (907) 451-8208.