According to a recent study published September 2, 2020, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there has been a 3-fold increase of depressive symptoms compared to patients prior to Covid-19 times. This increase of depressive symptoms is disproportionally higher in those who have lower income, less that 5K in savings and more exposure to stress. Considering winter is soon to hit us here in Southeastern Idaho, we need to prepare for times ahead. Winters in our cold high mountain desert already challenge our ability to stay happy and healthy. Add Covid-19, racial tensions, political turmoil, and the prospect of a cold, harsh winter is certainly stifling. What can we do to prepare for winter with Covid-19 on the rise? How can we nurture our resilience to this ubiquitous challenge? I propose five ways to gear up for this potentially very difficult winter.
- Acknowledge reality. Denial is not your friend. This is unlikely to be a ‘normal’ holiday season. Do not expect it to be normal. Mentally gearing up and preparing for challenges allows us to be creative and flexible in our holiday plans and winter activities. Zoom parties, outdoor social events or even just simplifying our holiday activities can bring joy and connection with our family and communities. We have survived several months dealing with Covid and we can certainly keep going. Yes, it will be hard. However, if I have learned anything about Idahoans, it is that we are tough and resilient. We can maintain hope that vaccines will be ready in 2021, treatments will continue to develop and that eventually the urgency of COVID-19 will pass. Yes, it will have changed all of our lives but we will prevail in time. Having realistic expectations and hope for a better future can help us prepare and avoid some unnecessary heartache and disappointments.
- Establish self-care routines that will enable your emotional, physical and social health. I always think of the flight attendant telling us to put on our oxygen mask first and then help those around you. We as individuals are primarily responsible for our own health. Being in good health will help us to better serve our families, communities and workplaces. Some of these self care routines should include adequate sleep, hydration, nutrition and exercise. Most people need 8-10 hours of sleep each night. Regarding hydration, people under duress tend to drink less water. Wearing a mask most of the time has affected my normal routines for drinking water. Make it a point to drink a full glass of water several times daily. Excellent nutrition will allow our bodies to fight off the virus as well as the winter blues. Oranges, grapefruits, berries, sweet potatoes, spinach and kale are some foods that are high in Vitamin C and other vitamins essential for good health. Adding in vitamins and supplements such as Zinc, Vitamin D and B vitamins can infuse us with energy and physical resilience. Talk to your medical professional to find out which vitamins and minerals would boost your health. Exercise has been shown time after time to improve our mood, optimize our physical health and decrease stress. YouTube has revolutionized our work out options. Most gyms are still open and we always have our great outdoors. As the Norwegian phrase goes, ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” While we certainly have our share of bad weather (hello freezing wind!), a good set of gloves, an actual winter coat, insulated socks and boots and hand warmers, etc can make all the difference. Whether it’s just a walk around the block, skiing, snowshoeing, walking with Nordic poles, we can get outside and exercise. It’s also a great way to interact with others with safe social distancing. This may be the year that I really learn how to downhill ski. Yes, that is a warning to those on the ski hill! My falls are pretty spectacular!! That being said, take charge of your health by getting enough sleep, hydration, nutrition and daily exercise. Your body will thank you.
- Find someone to talk to. This may be your best friend, your coworker who happened to innocently ask how you are doing, not knowing that an avalanche of information was coming their way, your neighbor or a therapist. I sincerely believe that we can always benefit talking to a counselor even if our symptoms seem mild. Acknowledging our emotions and talking about them will help to process them. There are many excellent therapists in this area as well as online platforms if you are unable to leave your house. A few recommended sites are Talkspace, BetterHelp and Larkr. You can also call the Department of Health and Human Resources National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357. Integral Care has a hotline with 15 languages at 1-512-472-HELP. If things are really bleak, I want to share the national Suicide PreventionLifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Please call. There is definitely help waiting for you, no matter your situation.
- Develop a sense of community. Be a good friend and listener, reach out to those in need, volunteer at a food bank of check on your neighbors. All of this can be done with a mask and social distancing. Just think of how much Batman accomplished with his mask and aversion to crowds!
- Acknowledge the good things in your life. Starting your day with gratitude can turn your perspective quickly and with intention. ‘Gratitude turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos in to order, confusion into clarity. It makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow”. This quote is by Melody Beattie. During the intial shutdown, I challenged my 4 daughters to say 3 things they were grateful for as well as 3 things they liked about one of their siblings or themselves. Of course, they thought I was torturing them, but it was one of the highlights of the day for me and certainly added a splash of happiness at the end of each day.
Adjusting our expectations, creatively finding solutions, taking charge of our physical and emotional health, building community and looking on the bright side with gratitude will help us not only survive but thrive this COVID-19 winter. See you outside (with your sunscreen of course)!!