How to Survive Winter in Chicago (or Anywhere Cold!)

bell sleeve shirt

This is my fifth winter in Chicago—fifth! When did that happen? Each year winter throws something different at us and so far this year hasn’t been too bad. Sure, we’ve had a few streaks of single digit (and negative) temperatures, but we haven’t had much snow. I love how the snow looks, but a few days later it gets dirty and makes doing the simplest things, like walking the dog and going to the grocery, far more complicated.

The other unexpected effect of winter? It can be a total mood sucker. Maybe it’s the fact that the sun doesn’t shine as much or that the days are shorter, but winter does a serious number to my attitude and energy level. But over the past few years, I’ve figured out a few tricks for boosting my spirits, staying healthy and surviving Chicago’s winters.

1. Wear Layers

One layer is almost never enough in the thick of a Chicago winter. It might seem like an obvious one, but I learned the hard way my first year. Now I’m fully stocked on undershirts, sweaters, vests, scarves and thick, tall socks. Another reason layers are important is because they’ll keep you from overheating when you walk out of the 12 degree weather into a cozy, warm coffee shop. Just peel them off!

2. Invest in a Puffy Coat

This one is an absolute necessity! No, they might not be as cute as your pink wool coat from J.Crew, but they’re about 5x warmer! I love this one I wore on the blog earlier this year, and this one which would be even warmer.

yellow bell sleeve top
bright casual outfit

bell sleeves, ripped jeans and tassel heels

mustard yellow shirt

indoor plants
spring outfit idea

3. Make Plans

I’ll be honest, endless cold and grey days is hard on me. Making plans with friends and getting out of the house does wonders for my mental health during these frigid months. Dinner, coffee and drinks are easy things to do, but think outside the box. Last year we went indoor rock climbing one afternoon which was so fun!

4. Have a Gym Accountability Partner

Surprisingly enough, winter is actually when I get most motivated to workout. It usually starts at the end of December and carries through January. But come February, I start falling off the wagon. Having a workout accountability partner seriously helps. Even if you don’t go to the gym together, checking in with each other each day or week to make sure you’re hitting your goals will make it easier. Plus, going to the gym is endorphin-boosting and can keep you from falling into a slump. If all else fails, order new workout clothes—that always works for me. I just got this top and these leggings from Outdoor Voices—I’m obsessed!

5. Wear Brights

If the sun won’t shine, I’ll dress like the sun! Haha, I’m kidding, but wearing bright summery colors does instantly boost my mood and remind me that winter isn’t forever. This sunny bell sleeve top is a current favorite. I love pairing it with my ripped jeans and tassel sandals for a boho look, but it looks chic with normal skinny jeans too! Before I know it, I’ll be wearing it with my favorite denim cut offs.

6. Take Advantage of Sunny Days

When the sun is shining, I make a point to get outside. I’ll take Oliver on an extra long stroll and walk so that the sun shines on my face as much as possible. Even if it’s still cold, sunshine feels pretty incredible. If it’s too cold outside, I’ll turn my chair to face the window and let the sun shine on me. It sounds silly, but I swear it helps!

Chicago Fashion blogger, Blair Staky wearing ripped jeans, bell sleeve shirt and tassel heels

lantern sleeve shirt

tassel sandals
street style outfit

chicago style blogger

7. Visit the Conservatory

As you guys know, I love the Lincoln Park Conservatory. It’s like a little slice of tropical vacation and always makes me feel so much better. It’s hot and humid in there, so refer to tip number one before you visit. If you don’t have a conservatory, bring greenery into your home. I love having live plants in our house year round, but they look especially bright during the winter! Anthropologie always has the cutest planters if you’re looking for some!

8. Keep Healthy Foods on Hand

Staying healthy during the summer is easy! When it’s hot, a crisp salad and ice cold water sounds so light and refreshing, but in the winter, I crave hearty foods. To keep myself from going overboard, I like to keep a few of my favorite healthy homemade soups in the freezer. I’ll make a big batch, portion them into plastic containers and freeze them. Then on nights where I’m too cold to go to the grocery, I have something healthy on hand instead of ordering takeout.

9. Get Outta Town

Let’s be honest, there’s only so much you can do before you’ve had enough of winter. Traveling somewhere warm, or even somewhere different can be so good for your body and mind. Last year I planned a trip to a warm location every month through April. In January we went to Austin, then Mexico in February, Los Angeles in March & Sonoma in April. It gave me something to look forward to each month and really made winter fly by! Who doesn’t love a good excuse to book a last minute weekend trip.

Do you live in a cold climate? What tips do you have for making it through long winters?!

BTW, a recipe for Mexico City Style soup, and our trip to Miami.

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