How To Protect Your Mental Health During The Winter Lockdown

Matt Lillywhite

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I’m going to be completely honest with you.

My mental health has been like a rollercoaster over the past few months. I’ve had family members die during the pandemic, and many friends have been hospitalized with severe cases of Covid-19. As much as I try to be optimistic about the future, it can be difficult.

Right now, my city is in lockdown. We’re currently not allowed to visit friends or family in their homes. And with the weather being freezing cold, any chance of having a normal social life has quickly disappeared.

If that sounds anything like your current situation, please remember that you’re not alone. There’s no doubt that lockdowns during winter will suck. However, there are several strategies that you can implement to make this period of time much easier to get through. Here they are:

Recognize That It’s Okay To Feel Anxious.

A lot is going on right now. Thousands of people are dying each day around the world from a disease that barely anyone had even heard of twelve months ago.

If you feel anxious, you’re not alone. According to data published by CTV News, five percent of Canadians reported high-to-extreme levels of anxiety before Covid-19 was declared a pandemic. A few weeks later, that number multiplied to twenty percent.

Someday, this will all be over. But until then, we just need to try our best to get through this.

Distract Yourself With Something You Enjoy.

According to VeryWellMind, “A distraction technique is simply any activity that you engage in to redirect your mind off your current emotions. Instead of putting all your energy into the upsetting emotion, you reset your attention to something else. When you distract yourself, you are able to manage your strong emotions by bringing your focus elsewhere.”

I love reading. It’s something I’m passionate about as it enables my mind to be transported to another place, time, or set of circumstances. For a few hours each day, Covid-19 isn’t on my mind at all. It’s genuine bliss.

Perhaps you love learning languages. Maybe you enjoy drawing, painting, or doing anything else that’s artistic. Whatever you love, try and make time for it each day. Distracting yourself with something you enjoy will certainly help to pass the time.

Find New Ways To Connect With Friends.

Zoom calls are becoming a natural part of daily life. I spoke to my friend Julia for a few hours last night. We talked about the many ways in which the Covid-19 pandemic has completely upended our lives.

Halfway through, she said something that made me think about the pandemic in a completely different way: 

“For many people, it took a pandemic to realize how important it is to have a strong support network. We’ve started to place a higher importance on meaningful communication. We’re talking to our loved ones a lot more than we used to. And to me, that’s beautiful.”

I agreed. Even if you’re alone right now, you don’t have to be lonely. There are various ways to connect with friends (without being together in the same room). For example:

  • Host a digital dinner party. This is something I’ve done a few times over the last few weeks. We organize a time and date. Then, we have dinner together over FaceTime and talk as if we’re sat around the same table.
  • Use Zoom (or other applications) to catch up with friends. Some of my friends and family prefer to use Android. So instead of FaceTime, we’ll use Zoom to catch up and have a conversation for an hour or two.
  • Use Instant Messaging to check in on each other’s mental health. I prefer WhatsApp. But obviously, there are a variety of instant messaging apps that you can use. Send a periodic message to check that your loved ones are okay during these difficult times. If they’re unable to call, it’s a great way to communicate.

The lockdowns are forcing us all to connect with people in new ways. Enjoy spending time with your loved ones — even if it’s done remotely.

Create A Schedule To Add Structure To Your Days.

Time goes by much faster when you have something to do. So if you want to avoid boredom during the winter lockdown, consider creating a schedule to add structure to your days. After all, you’ll know what you’re supposed to do at any given moment.

I get up around 7am. I make myself an omelet and some coffee. Then, I write for a few hours. In the afternoon, I learn languages, chat with friends, and watch a documentary.

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to be as productive as Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos during the lockdown. Instead, focus on yourself. Think about what you can do each day to make a tiny bit of progress towards better mental health and a more fulfilling life.

Use Your Time Indoors To Learn Something New.

Let’s face it… You probably have nothing better to do during lockdown. As Charlie Wood writes in Business Insider:

“Whether it’s learning a language that you’ve always wanted to learn, or delving into Ancient Greek history, keeping your mind and brain active by learning something new will really help cure potential boredom during the lockdown.”

My friend Jack was hoping to visit Mexico in July. But due to the lockdowns and travel restrictions, his vacation got canceled. Over the past few months, he’s been learning Spanish to make the experience a lot more enjoyable whenever he eventually goes.

Use the extra time indoors to learn something that you’ll find useful once the lockdowns are over. For example, you could take an online course or learn a new language.

There’s an abundance of learning opportunities out there. What you do with them is totally up to you.

Recognize that it’s okay to feel anxious. Distract yourself with something you enjoy. Find new ways to connect with friends. Create a schedule to add structure to your days. Use your time indoors to learn something new.

The winter lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic will be tough on all of us, which is why implementing the above strategies is a great idea if you want to protect your mental health.

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