Updated: Oct 7, 2021
It’s now November 2020 and it’s been a very challenging year for most people on this planet. There has been talking for months about the COVID-19 “second wave” and now it’s hit in Canada. No surprise, given our cold temperatures, dry air and time we all spend indoors.
Just recently, our government in Alberta has shut down sports and gyms and has limited time in bars and restaurants for the next two weeks. More restrictions are looming. It’s a particularly difficult time for many.
In March, I wrote two blog posts about coping strategies for helping people manage the stress of COVID. You can check them out here and here. In April, I wrote about how to prepare for the upcoming mental health emergency due to COVID. You can check that out here.
Today, I’m writing about how to deal with COVID-19 right now– after a long year of many restrictions, challenges, illnesses and cancelled plans.
With my clients, I hear so much fear about the upcoming winter and how to survive it. I want you to feel empowered to thrive this winter and hopeful about the future.
As you read this today, I want you to get a notebook, computer or the notes section on your phone, so you can write a few things down as you have insights.
How to cope with winter this year
Clarify your life vision.
Let’s face it…most of us are far too busy in today’s society. Often what we do is just get wrapped up in what everyone else is doing and we don’t take the time to really consider what’s important to us.
I want you to do a very powerful exercise. It may be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself.
I want you to set aside some time and write down a vision of what you want your life to look like in 5 years.
In this vision, write about where you are, not how you got there. Focus on the “what” but not the “how.” Cover every area of your life and write it in the present tense as if it’s already happened. The areas I want you to consider are:
Intimate relationships, parenting, education and learning, friends and social life, physical self-care and health, a family of origin, spirituality, community life and citizenship, recreation and leisure, work and career. Some of these may not be relevant to you, so you can skip them.
This exercise helps you to achieve clarity on where you want to be in your life, which is something well worth considering. It’s a great use of your time in 2020.
Once you’ve written your life vision, read it over every morning. It will seep into your subconscious mind and help direct your daily choices to be more in alignment with where you want to go.
I’m regularly encouraging my clients to be intentional with their time, as we all tend to just fall into patterns of behaviour without really thinking about it. I want you to reflect on the upcoming number of months. How would you like to spend your time? Use your 5-year vision to guide you.
I want to consider what activities might fill your cup and bring you joy. Focus less on productivity and more on having fun and improving your health. The idea here is to help foster physical and emotional wellness, not to cross activities off a to-do list. Write down a few activities.
After considering what activities you would like to incorporate into your routine, set some reasonable intentions for your time throughout the winter. What is one thing that you really want to set aside time to do? Just choose one thing…not 10…and think about how often you will do this activity.
For example, my daughter and I have been learning how to sew this year, so we could set a goal of 1 hour of sewing together every weekend. It’s a reasonable amount of time and an activity that would bring both of us joy. Plus we can spend some quality time together, which we always like to do. It could be great for both of us as long as I don’t let my frustration about not knowing how to sew get to me!
See how my goal was not too big. I didn’t say that we’d sew every day or make 10 quilts. Just an hour a week of something that we’d both have fun doing. We’ll probably make a few pillows over the winter and call it a win!
Here’s another important key: truly commit to doing what you say you will do. Tell yourself, “I am a person who follows through with my intentions.” This is so incredibly important.
I often find that people are far more likely to follow through if it relates to others, but less so with themselves. Consider this: would you be more likely to go to the gym if you were meeting a friend there? Probably yes. Here’s something to ponder: keeping your commitments to yourself is just as important as the commitments you make to others.
This winter set one intention for yourself and really follow through with it. Write it down and follow your plan. You’ll be so happy that you did.
Embrace the outdoors.
One thing I notice about those of us in the Prairies is that we can be a bit negative about the winter months. When it’s cold or snowy, we often complain (incessantly) about it and talk of “escaping” the weather to a hot holiday.
This year, I think it would be a wonderful step to embrace our winter months. I’m not kidding…let’s really try to enjoy them. Perhaps try out skating, skiing, sledding or snowshoeing or just an easy walk.
Now I’m not one of the people who complain about the weather, but in the winter, I often joke that I drive from a heated garage, walk five steps into and out of work and then back to my heated garage all winter long. I’m one of those people who are always cold and I’m not one to usually get outside much at all in the winter months. When I exercise, it’s usually at home, at the gym or the hot yoga studio. And to be honest, I just don’t exercise as much in the winter months. This year, one of my intentions is to get outside every day. I’ve been doing it so far and I can really feel the boost in my mood from the fresh air and exercise.
What do you think? Can you work on less complaining about the winter weather and take some steps to enjoy it in some way? I think this will help you to thrive this winter.
Consider your need for social connection.
I want you to spend some time considering how much social time you need to be OK, or even more than OK during this winter. One of the most important factors to consider is your level of introversion/extroversion. Essentially, these means do you derive comfort and joy from being around people (extroverts) or having quiet alone time (introverts). If you’re an extrovert, you’re likely to have had a more challenging year in 2020.
Of course, it’s very rare to be 100% introvert or extrovert and we all have a mix of a bit of both. Give yourself some quiet time to reflect and consider where you might fall on the introversion/extroversion spectrum and how that has impacted your experience of COVID-19 restrictions.
As an example, I’m personally a very strong introvert, so the restrictions on social interaction have not affected me in a particularly negative way. However, I live with 2 very strong extroverts (my children) and a much more extroverted husband, so I recognize that they require more social time than me.
For our children, we know that if there are stronger restrictions imposed throughout the winter, they would benefit from a cohort of one or two friends with who they can spend time over the winter months.
As you self-reflect, think about your needs for social time and how you can satisfy these needs in a safe way throughout the winter. It might be establishing a small cohort, having regular Zoom dates with friends, joining an online group that meets weekly, having a daily connection time with your partner and more phone calls than usual with loved ones.
I will tell you this: at some point in the near-ish future, the pandemic and its effects will lessen. Yes, things will be different, but you’ll be able to get back to most of the activities that you’ve really been missing.
If you knew with certainty that the pandemic would end, how would this affect your enjoyment of the next few months? Would you be able to take a breath and feel more at peace? I think that maybe you could.
Do you know anyone who has lost a job they didn’t like? This person was fired and was given a certain amount of severance. They would typically embrace and welcome a break from work, but because of the fear of the future and not knowing if they would find a job, they were unable to enjoy the time off work. However, if they knew that they would find a great job, they could relax and have fun. They worried and fretted for a few months and then when they did find a job, they regretted that time that they spent worrying about the future and wished that they could have just had fun during their time off.
Using this example, how would you embrace this time if you knew with certainty that it was going to end? Try to consider that and have hope that some time, somehow, this is all going to get better.
Be easy on yourself. It’s an exceptionally difficult time and there will be hard days. Be compassionate with yourself. Give yourself grace. Remember…
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe. No less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. ~ Desiderata
Comment below with one step that you plan to take to cope with the upcoming winter months. I love to hear from you and read every comment!