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Practical tips for getting through a COVID winter

Winter can be a difficult time for many people and this affects our mood and our physical health. But there are ways to improve our circumstances through the dormant time of year. Here are some ideas I’ve put together for you. I hope they inspire and lift your spirits.

Acceptance

First rule: Work on the things you can control, and put aside the things you can’t.

Feel healthy and glowing

It gets dark early. It will rain and be cloudy a lot in winter. Nothing new here! I have read and listened to lots of news saying, "Oh no! Winter is Coming!", "Dread, gloom, depression, Christmas is cancelled!" Well, that’s not very helpful for starters.

The mornings are lighter for now, so how about getting up earlier and going for a brisk walk, however often you can manage? Dress accordingly. Maybe it’s time to order some funky wellies, waterproof jacket and a jaunty hat? It’s only weather after all.

Vitamin D3 is essential which, in part, comes from exposure to the sun. Stock up on supplements (consider speaking with a nutrition professional if you suspect you are deficient in certain nutrients and minerals). They're fairly afforable and available in most supermarkets now, and as well as keeping your cardiovascular system and bones strong, vitamin D3 supports your mental wellbeing.

I saw a chap walking into a new tanning studio on my local high street and thought, "What a good idea!". Of course, be careful of your skin. But how about exploring some new self-tanning products to get the glow safely and at home? Right now, I’m checking out the options for a light, natural tan. It makes me feel better during the colder days!

Exercise

Many of us will have noticed our bodies changing and weight fluctuating this year, for many reasons, and the winter months tend to bring similar change. Please try not to beat yourself up about it.

When you are ready and if you want to, maybe look to the winter season as an opportunity for change. Change up your dinner routines with new recipes and seasonal cooking. Get outside for those chilly but fresh morning walks. Consider meeting up with a friend or two, where possible. This meets an important need for friendship. I’m seeing a few walk and talk groups starting up which is brilliant. Can you join one for the company and comfort in not walking in the dark alone?

Remote working in winter

A few things to consider here. First, watch out for your heating and electric bills. We’re used to spending 10 hours away from home, so the bills may well be different this year. The best thing is to prepare. You could try Utility Warehouse, or at least shop around and see if you can shave off some pennies with a new supplier. Turn off those lights and keep the temperature at an even level. Layer up. It's time for big socks, jumpers and joggers, and if it’s really cold in your home, fingerless gloves and a beanie hat won’t go a miss.

And watch out for feelings of isolation. Keep on communicating with friends and family. Remember pens and paper? Focusing outwards is always a great mental health tip. How happy will your loved ones feel receiving a card or a letter in the post?

If writing isn't your thing, pick up the phone. It doesn’t always have to be FaceTime, just a short conversation to check in on each other. Ensuring you have no distractions and ample time means you can have a meaningful and loving chat on the phone. I have two calls planned for later, and I can’t wait.

Combat the dark with light

There are some gorgeous wake-up alarm clocks with sunrise settings and natural sounds to help us wake up easier during these darker days. Mine has been resting in the wardrobe for two years, but this season I’m definitely going to use it. They’re really soothing and clever at making you feel rested and happy in the morning.

Candles in the evenings make the room feel super cosy with a natural glow. Enclosing them in glass containers makes an even softer light and keeps you safe too. Time to stock up!

Inside/outside jobs at home

You may well have done all the jobs during the first lockdown. But there could still be more to do, so use this as an opportunity get up and get moving. Keeping busy fights off boredom, loneliness, anxiety and depression.

I’ve heard a few people saying that they feel they wasted the time they had at home during lockdown, wishing they’d cleared out the garage, done that course, painted the spare room... First, don't feel guilty. It was a strange time for us all. As the weather grows cooler and restrictions continue, now could be the time to do the things you wanted to do. Make a plan for these months to freshen up and de-clutter. Add to your skillset and take that course. Maybe learn a language or musical instrument?

Christmas

This year will be different for many of us. Yet we can make Christmas an enjoyable and stress-free experience by trying to accept that we may not be able to have 14 round the table and travel far and wide to see friends and relatives. Instead of thinking of what we can't have, why not think about what we can have, and what can be done to make it enjoyable?

Bake, bake, bake! Yellow piccalilli, delicious chutneys and jams. Fill the freezer with homemade pies and tasty treats. Spend time deciding on what you will eat over the festive period and how you will decorate your house. Your kids don’t want to hear moans and groans and see miserable faces. Make plans for how to celebrate Christmas knowing that it will be different.

Think of others instead of expensive gifts. Make a plan of the people you need to call regularly over the festive holidays. Perhaps you do some voluntary work locally. How can you contribute to the feeding children and families over the school holidays programme? Could you make soup or sandwiches?

Make a gratitude list

The other day I had some really tough clients, the sixth cancellation of a meetup, the postponement of a client visit, a sad talk with my Mum in a care home, and then I put on the news. All of these things at once nearly sent me diving for my duvet. The news is pretty rotten at the moment, and watching too much of it may not be the best course of action. I, for one, am going to limit my exposure to negative media coverage.

Every day, or once a week, I look at the things that have gone well and I make a note of them in my bullet journal. It’s surprising how many things I can put on my list that make me smile. As an example, here are some of mine for this week:

  • My cat going potty, tearing from room to room for no apparent reason.
  • My 6’6” son almost suffocating me with one of his hugs on the sofa.
  • A week of rainbows and glorious sunsets.
  • The sound of rain on the conservatory roof.
  • A big thank you from a satisfied client.
  • My Mum telling me how much she loves me.
  • Some hilarious comedy that had tears running down my face.

Get ready. Be happy.

Stock up with your favourite music and films/TV shows. Sort through your photo albums, and maybe even print off a load of photos from your phone and make new ones. Take a trip to Hobbie Craft and make your own Christmas cards or buy a puzzle, Airfix model or craft project. Download an audiobook you’ve always wanted to listen to (I’m enjoying 10 hours of Jamaica Inn, narrated by Tony Britton).

We have winter every year, and this year we also have COVID. It is serious and scary, but we can all make the most of what we’ve got, and do our best to enjoy the next few months, even when we get bad news and things are not going well.

Wishing you a safe, happy and fulfilling winter, Sally x

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Sally Nilsson HG.Dip.P, MHGI, Hypno. Cert. CS. Psychotherapist, Human Givens

I am a Human Givens Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist committed to breaking taboos on mental health in our communities and promoting good mental health. During coronavirus, I have written a number of articles to help with improving mental health and offer online counselling using Zoom, Skype or Whatsapp.… Read more

Written by Sally Nilsson HG.Dip.P, MHGI, Hypno. Cert. CS. Psychotherapist, Human Givens

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