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How to handle winter 2020

How to handle winter 2020

It’s likely that very few of us are looking forward to winter this year! With coronavirus restrictions still in place up and down the country, it will probably be a strange and uncertain time. We’re all unsure about what the next few months have in store, and it’s not clear how festive the festive season is going to be.

Winter can make life more difficult at the best of times, due to factors such as lack of natural light, and bad weather which can make it harder to get outside and socialise, where that’s permitted. We might be more likely to catch illnesses such as colds. Some people find winter pretty tough anyway, especially if they experience seasonal effective disorder (SAD).

Whatever your situation, the idea of winter being around the corner may bring thoughts of dread or anxiety, or make you feel low, tired or irritable. This is perfectly understandable!

While a lot of what’s currently happening is outside of our control, we can make a conscious decision to try to be as prepared and as healthy as possible for the winter months. We may recently have got into the habit of living in the moment and focusing on the here and now, which can help with managing uncertainty – but spending some time thinking ahead and planning will help us cope better.

What do you think you might struggle with? Pinpoint what you normally don’t like about winter – and also what you think you might find difficult this year.

Is there anything you enjoy? Wearing cosy jumpers, bright frosty mornings, Christmas music, Strictly being back on TV…focus on the things you like about the season. Some people may actually be cherishing the idea of hunkering down at home this year, or avoiding the pressure of endless December social engagements!

Do you have things to look forward to? You may be limited by restrictions or a lockdown, but focus on the enjoyable activities that are still possible, and make plans to do them.

If there are events that you normally love – such as Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas parties, or a birthday – you can make sure you still have a good time by planning a version A, and a version B in case anything changes! You might be able to have five friends over for drinks on your birthday, for example, but make a back-up plan in case this isn’t possible – for instance, meeting in a pub instead, or celebrating at home with a family meal.

Are you taking good care of yourself? If you’re working at home, make sure you’re moving around enough; take a walk at lunchtime to get some exercise and a dose of natural light. Stock up on healthy and nourishing food. Keep to a regular sleep routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day – however dark it is outside, and even if you’re working at home!

Not getting enough sunlight can cause a deficiency in Vitamin D. The NHS has some good advice on how we can boost our levels over the darker months.

Is your home a comfortable and pleasant place to be? Take a leaf out of the Scandinavians’ book! Buy some lights to cheer up the house, and some plants to bring the outside in. Make sure your heating is working properly so you stay warm.

Are you on top of your errands? If you’re worried about another lockdown, make a list of essential tasks you can deal with now to make sure you’re not caught out, like going to the bank, ordering prescriptions, or making an optician’s appointment. Ticking things off the to-do list can help us feel well-prepared and in control.

Do you have a healthy balance between commitments and pleasure? To feel on an even keel, we all need our lives to include a mix of three types of activities:

  • those that give us pleasure, or are important to us
  • those that are routine – such as work and household chores, and
  • those that are necessary – like paying bills or getting the car serviced. Think about each type of activity, and whether there’s anything you’re doing too much or too little of.

If you find you’re really struggling with your mood or mental health in the run up to winter – especially if you know you suffer from SAD – do seek help as soon as possible, to help make sure you can cope.

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