How to Make It Through a La Niña Winter

There’s a chill in the air and a cold, blustery wind is howling down our street, which can mean only one thing: it’s winter in Chicago again.

For Chicagoans, and for people in other areas of the country, this winter is likely to be another harsh one.

You see—and it brings us no pleasure to report this—it’s a La Niña year. And if it hits hard in our area of the country, that means cold, cold, and, yep, more cold is coming for Illinois. Will you be ready?

What Is La Nina?

The La Niña climate pattern is part of a natural cycle known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, cycle.

When La Niña, sometimes called a “cold phase,” is in effect, conditions are marked by cooler-than-average ocean water in the central Pacific. For reference, you may have heard of La Niña’s potentially equally annoying brother, El Niño, the “warm phase,” which occurs when water in a section of the Pacific Ocean is observed to be warmer than usual.

For something with such a cute name (La Niña means “little girl” in Spanish), this weather pattern can be fierce; as writer Doyle Rice notes over at USA Today, this environmental system “is one of the main drivers of weather in the US and around the world.”

As he explains it, a typical La Niña winter “brings cold and snow to the Northwest and unusually dry conditions to most of the southern tier of the U.S.” Meanwhile, “New England and the Upper Midwest into New York tend to see colder-than-average temperatures.”

If we have any readers in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states, we wish you congratulations: your regions tend “to see warmer-than-average temperatures during a La Niña winter.”

The La Niña winter conditions officially developed in early November and are projected to continue into early 2018, according to a report from Weather.com.

This is the second consecutive year we’ve experienced La Niña conditions. Citing stats from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Weather.com’s report notes that during last year’s La Niña season, “the West and Upper Midwest had one of the wettest winters on record.”

Oh, boy.

How Can You Prepare for La Nina?

So, what have we learned? For much of the country, the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018 will likely be marked with colder-than-average temperatures and wetter-than-average forecasts.

“The weather outside,” as the old song goes, will probably be “frightful,” and could make even the jolliest winter fan say “humbug” and crank up the heat!

Because these kinds of conditions could pose some serious health and safety concerns in the long-term, for those stuck in the cold and wet sections of the country during this La Niña winter, here are some practical health and safety tips worth remembering:

  1. Stay Hydrated
    While most of us picture summer as the time to guzzle down water, the reality is that there’s no wrong time to focus on proper hydration. In fact, the cold, low-humidity winter months can actually dry out your skin, such that it can even make it harder to breathe because the dry air can potentially dry out the mucus membranes of your lungs, nose, and throat. As a rule of thumb, remember to drink at least one ounce of water for every half pound of your body weight per day in order to keep yourself feeling energized and all of your body’s systems up to speed.
  2. Stay Social
    It’s easy to feel isolated during the winter months. Instead of hibernating, look at the cold weather as a chance to reconnect with people and get out there. Join a club, set up times to grab meals or have parties with friends, and plan ahead for any seasonal stressors that might take a toll on your mental health.
  3. Bundle Up and Stay Warm
    Remember to stay warm this winter by whatever means necessary. When you go out, experts encourage dressing in layers, making sure that both the top of your head and your ears are covered. It’s also important to cover your hands and feet with waterproof gloves or mittens and boots. Exposed, or poorly covered, hands and feet are susceptible to frostbite in bad wintery conditions.
  4. Get Outside and Stay Active
    Freezing temperatures might be a great excuse to stay shut indoors all winter long, but your body will thank you for getting out and exercising. For one thing, getting outside in the sunlight —and the vitamin D it provides—can help stave off seasonal affective disorder and leave you feeling energized. For another, winter offers plenty of fun exercise opportunities that the warmer months don’t, such as skiing, ice skating, and sledding! Just be sure to stay safe by bundling up. Always listen to official weather warnings and don’t go outside when they tell you not to.

One last thing? The winter months are also a great time to take stock of your health, wellbeing, and plans for the future. If this time of reflection leads to questions or concerns about your health or life insurance, the Enrollment Specialists are here to help set your mind at ease!

If you’re looking for a new plan, a resource to go to when you have questions about insurance, or a personal advocate for all things life and health insurance, our consultant extraordinaire, and your personal insurance superhero, Matt Peebles, is here and always ready to help. Let’s get the conversation started today!

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