Winter wonderland or winter wasteland?

January 11, 2019By

How to survive Latvian winter

With the holiday season over it is time to face reality – at least three more months of winter are still ahead of us. The days might technically be getting longer, but the gloom, the snow and ice, and the temperatures can really take a toll on you and your family. With the Christmas Markets closing and the decorations and lights coming down it is easy to get sucked into a slump.

As someone who has loved (Canadian) winters for several decades, I really believed that winters in Riga would be easy. But my first winter in Latvia proved that I was ill-prepared for the full brunt of the darkest season this far North. So this year will be different as I have a few tricks to help me deal with short days and dark nights.

#1 – Vitamin D.

Soaking up the rays is no longer seen as healthy but your skin makes vitamin D when exposed to the sun. Just 15 minutes of sun on skin can keep you healthy and happy through the winter, and yet those of us living in Riga can go weeks without seeing the sun. The malaise that strikes many of us in winter (easily getting sick, feeling tired, seasonal depression) all could be symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency. Last year I discovered vitamin D supplements which helped get me through the dark hump that was February. Make sure to visit your family doctor before you start taking any supplements.
A short trip south to find warmth and sunshine can also be a nice boost to your immune system and help your whole family increase their vitamin D stores.

#2 – Staying active.

The streets in Riga are quieter in winter and many locals hibernate, going to bed early and spending the weekends at home. The streets can be icy and many attractions close earlier, but this is a great time to get out and explore. Staying active could mean getting to the gym more often, committing to get out of the house and meeting friends for coffee, or being more adventurous. I took a trip to Sigulda in the middle of February and was the only person exploring the castles. A trip to Jurmala in early March allowed me to enjoy the empty beach and actually walk on the frozen ocean.

#3 – A social circle.

Having a solid group of friends who will check in on you, and with whom you can check-in with, is vital. Transitioning into a new country where you have fewer social connections and being far away from home is stressful, but a solid social circle gives you an people to have coffee with, go on a lunch date, or organize a girls’ spa afternoon. You social circle will also check-in on you! Building a network of awesome women who reached out to me helped me get through my first Latvian winter. They also helped me understand that I was not alone (and that vitamin D deficiency was an actual thing that could impact me physically and emotionally).

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