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  • Writer's pictureKyrby Brown

5 Tips for Surviving a Harsh Winter

It's snapped quite suddenly the UK, minus 5 today! So I thought it'd be good for me to record some of my winter survival tips!

1 - Get your wardrobe sorted!

Making sure that you’re prepared for the weather properly before you leave the house is essential. The right wardrobe options help to keep you warm dry and comfortable. As a wheelchair user it’s important to think about how best to do this for your individual equipment. Consider how your clothes might impact your range of movement and dress appropriately for your. In my small chair I have to wear more slimline options or risk my cloths getting caught and/or dirty. I am a huge fan of my Kinetic Balance thermal leg cover as it’s very slimline and keeps my legs from exposure to the wet and cold. I also find my right hand gets frozen on my joystick so I use a pair of small real wool fingerless gloves to protect my hand whilst maintaining my already minimal dexterity. Of course, good quality thermal socks are always a winner too!

Getting dressed on a winters morning can be tiring and arduous but you’ll be thankful for the extra time your layers allow you to stay comfortable outside. Preparation really is key!

2 - Timing is Key

I can only spend limited time outdoors in Winter so it’s important that I use my time wisely and think about the time of day I’m going out. I am a morning person but the morning frost can be tricky to navigate so I find a midday walk is often optimal. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always fit around work so I have to consider alternative activities during the week to keep active, the gym is a great option here but it’s no replacement for fresh air. Even if it’s only a 30 minute roll, I find it’s vital that I get outdoors once a day to maintain my mental and physical wellbeing.

3 - The Cold is Tiring, Fuel Up!

We burn significantly more calories when moving around in the cold, even when using a wheelchair. Ensuring that the fridge is full of high protein nutrition is very important and I often find my carb consumption goes up at this time of year.

Weight management is a real challenge for me so I always have to think about what I’m eating vs my physical activity. It doesn’t help that the shops are full to the brim with sweet treats and sugary warm drinks this time of year which sometimes prove too irresistible. I find it’s important to keep the balance and maintain self-awareness, it’s ok to treat yourself with the yummy treats of Xmas but it’s good to plan activity and actual meals appropriately. Having a few healthier winter warmers up your sleeve is great for midweek meal emergencies!

4 - Heated Everything!

My body is absolutely rubbish with its internal heating, I’m a bit like a house made of paper, I can’t keep any warmth in. This worsens triple-fold when I’m tired and I get awful spasms down my back and through my legs. When I get this cold it can take me hours to warm up, even with a 13.5 tog duvet over me, but I have found a solution.

In bed I use an under-sheet electric blanket, I’ll often turn this on around 20 minutes before I go to bed so that it warms the sheets and duvet, depending on how cold I am I use the differing settings to warm me up from the outside in.

On the sofa I use a heated throw which is totally amazing, it’s perfectly lush, soft and lightweight and it helps me to get warm quickly when I have come in from a frosty dog walk.

When I’m out and about for an extended period I have a heated body warmer/gillet that I wear under my coat or jumper. This is powered by a portable changer and works really well to keep my spinal muscles relaxed and stop painful shivers.

External heating sources are great for anyone with limited muscle function who feels the cold!

5 - Plan plan plan! Sleep sleep sleep!

Getting your schedule in place and managing your energy levels helps you to make the most of your Christmas and Winter activities. I love my sleep at the best of times and I don’t operate very well when fatigued so I have to think carefully when I’m planning Xmas fun. You should remember that it’s ok to say no or spend more time inside to conserve the best of yourself for the people and things that matter most to you.

If I know I’m in for a late evening, for example a theatre trip, I will ensure that I get to bed nice and early the night before so that I can make the most of the experience. Having rest days and duvet days between all the excitement is also important, despite how guilty they can make us feel. I always think that it’s better to be your best self when engaging in activities with family and friends, even if that means holing away for a day or two between times. Personally, I can only handle so much people-ing!

Image Description: Will (Jack Russell) looking up a tree for squirrels on a Winter's day.

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