As the season transitions from the summer mania of outdoor activities to the dark and quiet winter months, special consideration and preparation should be taken to be ready. Just because the weather is cold and dark doesn’t mean there are fewer activities or ways for Airmen and their families to stay resilient.
My first recommendation is to go into the winter with a plan. Don’t wait and expect everything and everyone around you to keep you engaged and entertained. Is there a project that can be done indoors that you’ve been waiting on? Take a class (one-day or a whole semester) in-person or online for something you have an interest in, but never had time to pursue. Do not allow isolation or cheap entertainment rob you of the opportunity to grow in something worthwhile. Take the time before winter settles in to think of things you can do and remember—many of the activities you enjoyed in the warm months are still available in winter. They may just be a little harder to find and require some extra preparation.
Winter comes with its own unique challenges. Personal safety, while always a consideration, should be at the forefront of your thoughts as you prepare for cold-weather activities. A few general safety principles can greatly reduce the risks you take while still allowing the flexibility to have a good time. Think ahead. Don’t go into anything blindly. Don’t panic about every possible negative outcome, but take time to consider what might go wrong while you are away. If you plan to drive, inspect your vehicle prior to departing and make sure it is in serviceable condition. Bring extra fuel if traveling long distances and don’t take unnecessary risks such as aggressive or careless driving. NEVER drive while impaired or tired and check the weather before you leave. Keep in mind that the weather might be nice now, but rapid changes in weather are common in the winter months. Refresh your memory on the signs and symptoms of hypothermia if you plan to be out in the cold. One example of some small winter safety decisions making a huge difference happened last winter here at Clear AFS. During a snow-machine outing, one of our members fell through the ice on a river and was submerged knee-deep in glacier water. Fortunately, he was prepared for the trip and didn’t go alone. Others on the trip were able to pull his snow machine out and his spare clothing was packed in a dry bag.
We are surrounded by people, but sometimes still feel alone. The social interaction that occurs naturally in the warmer months can sometimes feel forced in the winter, but is still important. Those who are fortunate enough to be with family or friends, take this time to improve and enrich those relationships. Plan activities and excursions that will bring you closer together. Everyone should seek out contact with people or groups that can help everyone in specific areas of interest such as faith, self-improvement, fitness, hobbies or other common interests.
Despite limited opportunities for outside physical activities, winter is a great time to focus on physical fitness. Dedicate some of the time you spent engaging in outdoor activities in the summer to improving your fitness. You might start a challenge with your coworkers, or perhaps start training for a run in the spring. Working out will get your blood flowing and improve your physical, mental, and emotional health. This is another great opportunity for some social interaction. If your base has a gym, try starting a volleyball or basketball club with some friends. Keeping active is essential to ensuring your continued resiliency as winter sets in.
If at any point you find yourself in a situation where you are struggling, don’t forget that you have options. When talking about resiliency, we tend to focus on corrective measures once there are already problems. Instead, take a more preventative approach. Find someone to talk to before things get bad and don’t be afraid to have the hard conversations. If you don’t think you have someone in your life you can talk to, the local Mental Health office or your Chaplain are great options. Finally, don’t forget all the great resources online and in-print. Remember, no one is truly alone, even if the weather might try to convince us otherwise.