Even after the pandemic began in March, no one could have predicted then just how much our lives would be affected and uprooted by the events of this year in ways unique to each of us. And though there is hopeful news of a vaccine, this winter will still see of the many of the same restrictions and high risk of infection, with the added stress a Minnesota winter brings.
So as we approach an extra stressful, distanced winter season, it’s important to be mindful of the ways we can help combat the burnout it might bring.
Check in with family, friends, and neighbors.
Remember that social distancing does NOT apply to phone and video calls! If 2020 has taught us anything, it is the importance of unity and community. Experts agree social support is critical at this time. Identify your support systems and don’t be afraid to reach out to them more often than normal.
In addition to your own emotional wellbeing, think of those in your life who may be especially isolated, due to age, illness, or any number of reasons. Now that we’ve all had a taste of isolation, we’ve seen just how disheartening and lonely it can be, and for many this form of isolation was a reality even before the pandemic set in.
Often times it is the smallest points of connection that make the world of difference for someone struggling with loneliness, especially for those most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Make sure your social distancing doesn’t equal social isolation.
Use this time as an opportunity to embrace new tech to connect.
The pandemic has forced many of us to adopt virtual communication technology faster than we ever expected. It’s become apparent that these tools aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so why not take this opportunity to embrace them as a resource for safely connecting with your loved ones?
Take advantage of tools like FaceTime and Zoom, particularly on the winter holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. And if you are someone who has become comfortable with these platforms, consider offering to guide others in your life through them as best you can.
Remember that for many of us, social networking and video chatting tools have become somewhat second nature, but it’s a language many of our loved ones just haven’t had the resources to learn. Often what we perceive as a reluctance to adopt newer technology in older family and friends is really just inexperience and self-doubt.
Know that it’s OK to have bad days.
Whether it’s the heartbreaking loss of life or isolation from the people and activities that bring us joy, I don’t think there’s any one of us who hasn’t felt the effects of this pandemic. And so it’s understandable that we’d feel a little more overwhelmed, fatigued, frustrated, or just plain down.
That’s OK. If yourself feeling negative, try to identify where it might be coming from in that moment. That mindfulness can make it much easier to reach out to your loved ones and talk through it. Because during this time, it’s likely they will have felt the same at one point.
Beyond your community, there are hundreds of free online support groups offered from sites like SupportGroupsCentral.com and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org/Support-Education/Support-Groups), including ones specific to COVID-19.
Go easy on yourself.
It’s important to remember we are living in extraordinary times. You can’t judge yourself against the same standards you normally would. Many of us have found that though we have seemingly more free time at home, we may end up doing less of the things that bring us a sense of accomplish like practicing a creative hobby, working on physical fitness, or learning a new skill.
That is completely normal and understandable. With societal anxiety and pandemic fatigue at all time high on top of our own complex struggles, 2020 is not the year to beat ourselves up for not meeting personal goals.
Be mindful of the ways you’re speaking to yourself. Our conscious and unconscious inner-dialogue goes a long way towards our daily mental health, especially when we’re forced to spend more time alone. So practice a little self-forgiveness and remind yourself moving through this time is hard enough without adding more pressure to yourself.
Approach this difficult winter season with a little compassion and humor. Be patient with yourself and others. Lean into the things that are keeping you sane and bringing you joy. Know that it’s alright to be struggling as long as we can identify those struggles and find support. So let’s continue to take care of each other by making safe decisions without losing our connections to community and family.