Have you heard of nature therapy? In Tlingit, Haa Latseen means strength of mind, body, and spirit. Getting outside and walking in this beautiful place builds a feeling of Haa Latseen, which qualifies as nature therapy. During the winter months, we need to take extra measures to be comfortable and safe in our outdoor therapy sessions.
What shall I wear today? This is a question we ask ourselves every day. Usually, people know what clothes are appropriate, given the weather, and rarely go out in shorts and flip flops in the middle of January. However, making an error in the clothes and gear department can vary from “minor discomfort” up to “major injury risk.”
In winter, make sure to have moisture-wicking materials as your base layer, closest to the skin. These are made of synthetic fabrics, not cotton, drawing sweat away from the body and pushing moisture to the middle and outer layers. The surface area of wicking materials is considerably greater than that of fabrics like cotton, making it easier for moisture to evaporate, allowing you to feel warmer and more comfortable. After the base layer, feel free to add warmth and rain protection layers as needed.
Always be aware of your environment and the conditions. Injuries usually get reported as accidents. In actuality, most falls and crashes are predictable and preventable. Think for a moment about the last time you fell outside. Where did you fall? What was the surface like? What were you wearing?
Consider the risk factors
So, was that fall an accident? Chances are your fall was an accumulation of risk factors that added up to your painful experience. Sometimes it’s a structure or obstacle that caused the accident. If you find a spot that is risky, make the effort to notify other individuals who utilize the area and, if structural, be vocal and advocate for a structural change.
Of course, personal decisions are important, and that is the one area that is totally in our control. Even with well-maintained sidewalks, good lighting, low-speed limits, and an ideal design element, falls will happen. The key question is, what you can do to have safe travels outdoors this winter?
Wear anti-slip soles
First, conduct a threat assessment. Know the conditions and choose the safest possible route. If icy, a personal traction device can be helpful. In Southeast, we recommend Spiky anti-slip soles, as opposed to Yaktrax, which are more suited for snow-packed, northern climates. A slow, shuffle walk can help too, as can a hiking stick or cane. If you are 55 or older, and/or on blood thinners, it’s extra-important to have a good fall prevention plan. For people of all ages, strength and balance training is incredibly beneficial.
Fall down, stay down
If you do fall, stay down for a minute to assess. Don’t pop right up and put pressure on an ankle you may have just sprained. If you hit your head, work to seek medical attention. The ground is hard, our heads are not.