One of my favorite sights is looking out the window at students enjoying their first snowfall. If that was you out in front of D building, it looks like you were having a lot of fun! After the first few days, once the really cold weather sets in, it may not feel quite so fun. Here are a few tips to help you survive the next 6 months of winter:
Stay Warm !
Winter is a big part of the Manitoba experience, and with a bit of effort, you can enjoy it as much as summertime! Dress warm, go outside, and experience the fun that is available through the winter. There are festivals such as the Festivale Du Voyageur, the Santa Claus Parade, as well as skating, skiing, snowshoeing, sliding, and other fun activities to do through the winter. Remember that as long as you are exercising, your body will produce heat so you don’t need to worry so much about staying warm until you stop!
In Canada, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing. You can always put more clothes on! The extreme cold can be dangerous, so you should prepare by dressing appropriately.
If you have the money, you can spend a lot on winter coats that are warm enough for the coldest days of the year—but you don’t need to. Dressing in layers serves the same purpose. In the middle of winter, I often wear as many as 6 layers of clothing when I go outside, from thermal underwear to a waterproof outer shell jacket. An advantage of layering is that you can increase or decrease the number of layers so that you can be comfortable at all temperatures and levels of activity: waiting at the bus stop, riding on the bus, or sitting in a heated classroom.
If you have children and do not have money to buy warm clothes for them, talk to your child’s school, daycare, or your contact at a local support agency. They may be able to obtain winter coats through the Koats for Kids program. For adults, Siloam Mission has winter clothing for those in need.
In the winter, your extremities—your head, hands, and feet—can get cold very easily. Be sure to wear a hat, scarf, mittens, and winter boots that are appropriate for the weather.
When you buy mittens or boots, they may have a temperature rating on them. This is the temperature which you should be comfortable when active (walking, running / exercising). If you want to stay warm when you are at rest (such as waiting for the bus), buy clothes with a comfort rating about 15-20 degrees lower than the temperature you will be in.
Your first reaction to freezing temperatures may be to go inside and turn up the heat, but be careful! You may like to keep your home at a tropical 30 degrees throughout the year, but doing so could cost you hundreds of dollars each month in heating costs. Keep the temperature to a reasonable 17-20 degrees, and wear a sweater indoors to stay comfortable.
Another important strategy is to keep the cold out. Seal up any cracks or openings that let the heat escape from your home. You can get clear plastic coverings for your windows at any hardware store, and you may place a towel or blanket along the foot of your exterior doors at night to keep the wind from coming through.
Winter is cold and flu season, and there’s a chance that you may catch something during the winter. If you do get sick, make arrangements with your instructors and take a couple days to rest and fight off the sickness before you get back to your studies. Going to school while you are contagious can spread your illness to many others, and can delay your recovery. Boost your immunity with healthy eating and regular sleep and exercise through the winter. You can also take advantage of the flu immunization clinics available on and off campus. Visit the Health Centre at your campus for more information.
Winnipeg winters are dry and this can be harsh on your eyes and skin. Keep moisturized by drinking lots of water, using skin creams, and avoid activities that dry you out further, such as showering in hot water.
A balanced diet is important to keep your energy high through the winter months. Be sure to prepare nutritious meals with a balance of many different kinds of food. Exercise regularly, and eat foods that are high in vitamin D (which you normally receive from the sun), or talk to your doctor about supplements that may be right for you.
Don’t forget to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. They may be a bit more expensive in the winter, but they are important to strengthen your energy, mood, and immunity. If you are having a hard time paying for groceries, sign up for the Food Bank (or access a community Food Bank near your home) which can provide some supplemental food.
Manitoba roads can be more dangerous in winter, and whether you are driving, walking, or taking the bus, do whatever you can to get where you need to go safely.
If you drive, consider buying winter tires that will give you more traction on ice and snow. If you park outside, you will need to plug in the block heater to help your car start in cold weather. Also, make sure to keep a winter emergency kit in your car, with blankets, food, and other basic supplies to help in case you are stranded or have an accident. If you are on foot, consider that cars need more time and space to change directions or to stop, so don’t step out onto the street unless it is safe to do so.
If you are drinking alcohol, be extra careful. Alcohol can make you feel warm, but your body can actually lose heat faster. Many cold-related injuries are complicated with alcohol. If you drink, do so in moderation, and have a plan for staying warm and safe.
Shorter daylight hours can affect your moods and feelings, and some students struggle with depression and loneliness during the winter months. If this is your experience, talk to one of our College Counsellors—they have resources and strategies that can help you cope with your new environment. Caring for your mental health by keeping a positive attitude about your environment and the challenges you face daily is an important part of adjusting to a new country. Your mood can also be affected by your diet and lifestyle.
Winter is here—enjoy it!