We all had these great intentions for 2020 and it turned out to be such a hard, difficult and above all uncertain year. The virus is still spreading throughout the world and here in the UK we are facing new restrictions again. We’re being told they might last for around 6 months and are having to come to terms with that. So how can you make sure that you’ll get through winter during the Covid-19 pandemic in one piece? How can you look after your mental health and wellbeing?
How to get through winter during the Covid-19 pandemic
I live on a tiny island of about 150 residents. It’s full of visitors in spring and summer, but in late autumn and winter we’re on our own. There’s a sense of isolation and certainly a big lack of “things to do”. You have to come up with your own entertainment and ideas as there are no shops, cafes, libraries, cinemas, swimming pools, events, concerts etc. So I am used to this very quiet life in the darker months of the year, which doesn’t obviously mean that I always love it. But I’ve found ways to embrace it.
First off, adjust your expectations and reduce the pressure
First off, acknowledge how the pandemic is making you feel. Remind yourself that the current times are truly extraordinary. Who knows- this may be the only time in your life that you’ll ever have to deal with a global pandemic.
If you are struggling, then make sure to not have unrealistic expectations of yourself. Be okay with not being happy all the time. You don’t need to proof your coping abilities to anyone! It’s okay to find this really hard. It’s okay to feel so fatigued by it, to struggle with the relentless uncertainty.
It’s often hard to imagine that things will ever change, but change is the only thing that’s certain. So trust that things will get easier again and that you’ll get your mojo back.
See this time as a challenge
If you listened to my podcast episode with writer Ben Aldridge, then you will have heard how he overcame severe anxiety in part by challenging himself to do the things that feel difficult. Really difficult. Ben purposefully set himself challenges to train his resilience. His ability to cope with uncomfortable feelings and to withstand difficulty.
This whole experience of uncertainty and finding ways to make it through this time will serve you as an example in the future. It will show you how you can overcome hard times. It will show you that you can survive and recover.
So remind yourself that you can get through this. See this winter as a challenge. As an opportunity for personal growth.
Have a winter project
So, at the time of writing we’ve got 5 months until it’s March again. How could you make the most of this time?
Something that I always make sure to do is to have a big project or two for the Winter months. I make sure to get busy. I choose something that is both meaningful and enjoyable.
Perhaps you run your own business and could focus on something new? Perhaps you’d like to start your own side business?
Maybe there’s a hobby you’ve always wanted to try? A board game you could buy? 3 books you’d like to read by the end of winter? A room you could redecorate? An online course you’ve fancied taking? Perhaps you could write a bucket-list of things you’d like to do from your home this winter?
Well, now is the time (restrictions-permitting).
By the way, if you’d like to focus on growing your sense of self-worth and confidence this winter, then head here for my digital workbook. It’s filled with helpful tips, journal prompts and lots of links to videos, articles, podcast episodes, guided meditations are more.
Embrace the outdoors
“There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.” If you haven’t got proper outdoor clothing that will keep you dry and comfortable, then get some. Get yourself a flask so you can go on long walks with a nice herbal tea or your coffee.
Just as in any other autumn and winter, prioritise exposure to sunlight. And I probably don’t need to point out how healing nature is, so go and spend as much time in natural environments as you possibly can. Every day ideally.
And then focus on all the things you do have control over
Most of us are feeling a lack of control. There are global things happening that affect how we can live our day-to-day lives. Planning trips away is challenging and stressful. We don’t know what will happen at Christmas or New Year. Perhaps you’ve got a big birthday coming up or an important celebration.
Feeling powerless is never good news for your mental health, so focus on the things that you do have control over.
Nutrition. Moving your body. The quality of your sleep. Taking the time to recharge your batteries. Hobbies. Paying attention to what you watch, read and listen to. Being mindful of how often you look at the news. Calling a friend and if you can, meeting in person.
If you were to write a list of the things you do still have control over, I suspect that list would get very long. Our brains are naturally very good at focusing on all things negative. So remind yourself of the things you can still do, and of all the things that can still be great this winter. Things might be hard but you are still allowed to find ways to have a good time.