Moving Through What Seems Like the Longest Winter Ever
Ways to find energy, connection, and fortitude in the difficult days ahead.
Posted December 31, 2020
As the coronavirus continues its relentless march through humanity, there are rays of hope with the recent approval and distribution of the first vaccines. But it may still feel as if we are moving into a season of uncertainty, with cold settling in throughout many parts of the country and folks hunkering down for the season. This winter is sure to look—and feel—very different from winters past.
Seasonal sadness and feelings of loneliness are common for some with shorter days. These feelings are magnified with the country in the grip of a coronavirus resurgence, with hospitals in some regions overwhelmed with the sick and dying, millions still unemployed, miserly government support, and anxiety about when safe vaccines will be widely available.
That brings us to “pandemic fatigue,” a sense of weariness from the steady case and death count and constant hyper-awareness—from washing your hands to wearing a mask to not being able to gather with others as freely as you normally would. Most of us have been dealing with this since early March of 2020, and the uncertainty of not knowing when it will end contributes to the sense of fatigue. Add to this fears of shutdowns—cutting us off from family, friends, and the places we love at a time when most people are drawn together by ritual and tradition—and it might seem as if we’re headed into the longest winter ever.
The pandemic affects more than our physical health—it can wear us down mentally as well. This is especially true for women globally. Women are almost three times as likely as men to report suffering from significant mental health consequences (27 percent compared to 10 percent), according to a study from CARE —a non-profit international aid organization that surveyed 10,400 women and men around the world. Effects include anxiety, loss of appetite, inability to sleep, and trouble completing everyday tasks. Financial insecurity, job insecurity, and food insecurity all contribute. The study also found that the emotional burden is even heavier on women in many countries, including the United States, because women still do most of the housework (even if they work outside the home) and take care of the children, many of whom are in “remote” or “hybrid” learning arrangements or being homeschooled.
For communities of color in the United States, the impact is felt even deeper, as Black and Latino people, who are nearly twice as likely to die from the coronavirus as white people, have been disproportionately affected in urban, suburban and rural areas, and across all age groups throughout the country, according to The New York Times . These communities are also heavily affected by job loss, racial injustice, social inequities, and lack of (or loss of) insurance, and many have to manage the stress of working in frontline jobs where social distancing is difficult if not impossible.
While many of these circumstances are simply not within your control, you do not have to let the worry of winter wash over you. You can aim to be your healthiest self by finding ways to stay connected, stay active, and stay positive while staying safe. Here are seven ways to help you to move through the season:
1. Add walking to your day. A brisk walk, even just 10 minutes, gets your heart rate up and your blood flowing. Exercise that elevates your heart rate contributes to a D.O.S.E. of feel-good hormones. Brisk walking is also credited with helping you maintain a healthy weight, strengthen bones and muscles, help prevent heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and improve your mood.
2. Stay connected. Even though you and your family or friends may not travel to see each other this year, you can still get together virtually via Zoom or FaceTime for game night, milestones, or other occasions that give you a reason to celebrate. Have the video rolling as you cook or have dinner together. Technology provides us many options to stay connected as we stay safely apart.
3. Expand your spiritual practice. Having a spiritual practice, whatever that looks like for you, will help you stay grounded during these tumultuous times. Whether it’s prayer, meditation, chanting, or some other practice, create space to focus inward and connect to a higher power, energy, or frequency. Need some help getting started? Try this guided meditation app, Liberate , which is a safe space for Black folk to develop a daily meditation habit.
4. Engage your creative side. Art is a cultural touchstone for many of us and often reflects what’s going on in our world—from music to writing and more. Try tuning into concerts online, dancing the night away to DNice , or safely visiting museums as a way to engage with the arts in your life. Want to learn to paint? Try a paint and sip class online. Cultivate a regular writing practice through journaling or use a site like Six-Word Memoirs to get you started.
5. Commit to learning something new. From cooking to jiu-jitsu to yoga, online classes are abundantly available for you to take your pick and are a great way to spend downtime at home. Joining a class gives you a reason to show up each week and creates opportunities for social connections with your fellow learners...
Learn a new skill, participate in a favorite hobby with others via online groups, or take a fitness class. If yoga is your thing, or you’d like to try it out, here is a list of 20 Black yoga instructors with online classes to get you started.
6. Be still. Know that winter is a time of rest and renewal. Many plants and animals that go dormant for the season emerge in the spring full of fresh life and energy.
You don’t have to hibernate, but your body may need to take a break. Give yourself the gift of a day or an hour or even 15 minutes with nothing to do. Slow down. Read. Listen to music or soothing sounds or your heartbeat, settle your body, and reset.
7. Be encouraged. Consider that you’re moving through the most difficult days of what may be the most difficult year in your lifetime. Journal about what you're grateful for at this inflection point in your life, what you’d like to leave behind in 2020, and what you need to move forward in 2021.