March 4, 2014

A Primer on Surviving the Polar Vortex. ~ Joni Kalstrup


I’m a kinesthetic learner and so it’s no surprise that the 1950’s study detailing what a Polar Vortex is was not on my radar until I found myself dropped into the middle of one.

This might become one of those outsized winters that we’ll speak about in hyperbole: “Well, when I was your age, the temperatures dipped so low…and the snow drifts blew so high…”

Mother Nature seems relentless this year. Given the climate chaos, it’s a great time to be mindful of taking care of yourself and taking a stand for how your thoughts and actions impact the Earth. Here are some quick tips that I’ve found helpful so that I can not only survive, but thrive, in weather that only Tom Skilling could love!

Take Care of Your Body

1. Cover and Protect your Hands and Feet.

Our core has our fire, keeping our vital organs protected and running right. Hands and feet can be susceptible to frost bite, especially if they’re not covered. Even if you’re just dashing to the bus, or into the office, be sure to nestle your hands and feet into protective and comfortable gloves, socks and boots. If you drive as much as I do, an extra pair of gloves and socks should be in your emergency pack in your car.

2. Wear a Hat.

Even if your head isn’t that large, and even if your hair is thick and luxurious, you can lose 30% of your body heat through your head. Find a hat that makes sense for the elements and that is fun enough to wear so that you actually do wear it.

3. Put on Your Boots.

Uggs are not winter boots. Chuck Taylors are not boots. Uggs may have a soft wool lining and a beautiful suede exterior, but you’ll slip on the ice. Chuck Taylors are super cool, but not super insulated. And in a nice wintry mix of puddles and snow, neither selection is moisture-resistant. While wearing my Uggs, let’s just say my feet got soaked. And, salt stains on suede are not pretty. Also, get a non-skid sole. And keep your style points intact: get some boots that have some you-flair. Make sure they’re big enough for a warm pair of wool socks (Smart Wool socks are great) and not too tight—you don’t want to cut off circulation.

4. Hydrate.

Yes, the air is dry and you might not feel it, but you need it to keep your engine running. It doesn’t need to be cold; heat up a cup and add lemon. Water for your interior, and for your exterior:

5. Moisturize.

Hydrate your skin and lips. Our skin is our first layer of protection from the elements. Love it.

6. Get out of wet clothing as soon as possible!

Dress in layers and get out of wet clothes quickly as they pull body heat away from you.

7.  Think about your car as your igloo.

What if weather and traffic weren’t in your favor and you found yourself stuck? I personally keep a shovel, blanket and water in my car in case of an emergency. Also, the floor mats can be flipped and placed behind the tires for traction to get out. I had my ribbony old tires replaced so that I can feel secure in driving in this blizzardy mix. In addition, carry flares, road salt and a fully charged cell phone.  Snacks and spare socks and gloves are great things to keep stashed in the car as well.

8. Exercise!

I hear so many people say they didn’t do this or that because of the weather. “Mmm…I couldn’t come to Spin class because of the____.” (Insert: snow, rain, heat, sunshine here.) Unless there truly is an advisory to stay out of the elements, the choice is available to you, and with each decision you are carefully crafting your path. Choose wisely, grasshopper. And you’ll feel better. Which leads us to:

Take Care of Your Mind & Soul

1. Practice meditation.

Not only has it been scientifically shown to reduce your heart rate, you’re going to need it as you find yourself smack dab in the middle of epic traffic and mind-bending winter surprises. As the Facebook Yogic meme goes, “Traffic doesn’t happen to you; you are the traffic.” Stay alert yet relaxed; what is the point of blocking a car from merging? What is the point of trying to teach them a lesson about last minute and rude decisions? How about a lesson of love and acceptance of what is? Let their understanding of that begin now.

2. Admit that the sparkling fluffy snow is really quite beautiful.

I love how a fresh snow blankets the earth; quiets outside sounds. How, when it’s really cold, the snow squeaks when I step on it. Worst case scenario: squint your eyes and pretend that the blanket of snow is a smooth canopy of sand.

3. Breathe in the fresh air.

Last week I traveled to the West Coast from Chicago, and experienced a weather change from below zero to 60 degrees. Sixty felt tropical; rainy, wet. Yes, the natives found the weather dreary, cold and the rain quite unusual. I walked down the street in short sleeves and said, “Brr, yes, it’s so cold!” (Said no native Midwesterner in the LA area in February ever.) Just as the ambient air temperature varied so radically, so did the air quality. Once back home, I could taste how clean the Midwest air was. It cleared my lungs and my nostrils opened up. Go ahead, mock me now. But this fresh air is great! So it might be cold as hell, but at least you’re not breathing in any toxins!

4. Think Green.

Honor the Earth and know that your actions influence the future, possibly including the weather. Scientists agree that this radical weather is in part influenced by our carbon footprint. What small things are you doing today that impact tomorrow? Again, the decisions you make chart the course. You could go soft and excuse yourself for this out (say, tossing the paper into the garbage) or you can walk the talk and make the conscious effort to recycle. Even when the air is frigid, think green.

5. Feel Texture.

Yes, the practical stuff is under the body section. For my heart and mind, I choose nubby knits, textured sweaters and tights, faux fur, winter plaids and soft flannels.

There are certain parts of our life that we can control; weather isn’t one of them. However, our response to the weather is. Make the most of it and stay grounded in your best self!


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