Wellness Pro Tips for Dealing with Cold Weather and COVID Fatigue
Expert advice is helpful in order to make the most of challenging times. Enter the Duke mental health experts with some pro tips on how to deal with almost an entire year of social distance and broken plans.
“Most of us did not anticipate that this heightened period of stress would be going on for 10 months and even longer in the future,” said Terrie Moffitt, Nannerl O. Keohane University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. “And there is still some uncertainty about when we will get out of this predicament.”
And at this time of year – during the winter and after the holidays – there’s typically a bit of a flat period, Moffitt added, once the celebrations are done and we return to school and to work. The days are short and cold, which also means people likely are not getting enough sunlight to strengthen the immune system and boost mood.
“We should all recognize that as a period of high risk for feeling depressed and anxious – for everyone,” Moffitt said. “Understand that this is temporary. Winter does go away, and spring will come.”
Here are some suggestions to help stay healthy and safe in the coming months.
Find Control Where You Can
Because the pandemic is lasting longer than our expectations, this can make self-care difficult.
“People are very good at changing behaviors in the short term, but maintaining those changes week after week and month after month is where the challenge comes in,” said Kyle Bourassa, a clinical psychology researcher and a postdoctoral scholar at Duke’s Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development.
When socializing, meet outside or keep the windows open, wear a mask, wash your hands, avoid large gatherings and stay home if you’re not feeling well. Follow the Duke Compact.
“You can visit others, and you can get together with key people,” Moffitt said. “Having control over your life and decide when you can be socially connected with others is so important.”
Moffitt also advised creating a written contract that you will reach out to someone every day. And then, make a short FaceTime call or send an Instagram message.
Contact each day will go a far way towards keeping the human support system and social network going, she added. You should also choose to contact people who make you feel uplifted, Moffitt said, and it’s fine to decide that a relationship is too upsetting at this moment and create some space between yourself and the person causing stress.
“There are some close friends or loved ones that you might decide to not meet with for a while, until the pandemic eases, because it brings too much stress and conflict,” Moffitt said. “And that’s healthy.”