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Pandemic Winter: Tips for Maintaining Mental Wellness

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Man looking out window. Image accompanies winter pandemic article.The winter months can take a toll on people’s emotions, even without a worldwide pandemic casting a frightening shadow. For some, winter blues or the more serious seasonal affective disorder will only compound feelings of anxiety and stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, a seemingly scattershot rollout of too-few vaccinations is adding frustration to the mix.

Techniques that have kept people grounded through all sorts of traumas can be used to cope with the pandemic winter. The Serenity Prayer reminds us that we cannot control everything. Take action when you can, and be patient when you cannot. The key is taking life a day, an hour, a minute at a time.

NewBridge Services recommends adopting daily practices that can have a cumulative positive effect on our well-being:

  • Get proper sleep. Go to bed and rise at the same time each day to help get your circadian rhythm on track.
  • Go outside during daylight hours. Getting outside can help replenish serotonin levels. 
  • Move your body. Walk, dance, ride a stationary bike, do an exercise video, or sign up for a fitness challenge. Mix it up.
  • Eat balanced meals. Go for lean proteins, vegetables, unprocessed foods and complex carbohydrates. Junk food may lure you, but it won’t give you sustainable energy. 
  • Avoid alcohol. It can contribute to anxiety and depressive symptoms.
  • Stay connected. Grab your mask and walk with a friend. Join an online book club. Organize a movie watch party. Take advantage of user-friendly video conference apps.
  • Volunteer. It’s good for your well-being as well as the people you help. Look for opportunities through houses of worship and nonprofits.
  • Practice gratitude. Acknowledge at least three good things each day, either aloud or in a journal. It can shift your perspective and make you feel lighter.
  • Laugh. Watch or listen to something that tickles your insides.
  • Meditate. It can be as simple as sitting quietly and breathing deeply a few minutes at a time, or doing guided meditations. Give this one a try.
  • Take a mental health screening. Screening is an anonymous, free, and private way to learn about your mental health. 

Coping with Frustration

If frustration is overwhelming you, take a break to calm your mind so you can think through the best way to move forward. Go ahead and vent for a few minutes, but don’t get stuck in negativity. You may need to change your expectations. With regard to COVID-19 vaccines, patience may be the best course of action, but keep an eye out for opportunities to be inoculated. Here is Planet Princeton’s crowdsourced vaccination site, where volunteers update information about New Jersey’s vaccination sites. Until vaccinations are widespread and public health safety measures are changed, continue to wear a mask, keep a distance from others, avoid indoor gatherings and wash your hands frequently.

If you have SAD, a seasonal form of depression, you may need to seek treatment including light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and/or antidepressants. If you feel you need professional help, contact NewBridge Services at 973-316-9333, services@newbridge.org or visit newbridge.org.

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