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This year, the end-of-summer dread feels different. Fears of an impending second wave of coronavirus coinciding with the stress of back-to-school, flu season and increasingly shorter days make for a wicked case of seasonal affective disorder, apocalypse edition. Add to that wildfires ravaging the west, and an upcoming election that in many ways feels like a matter of life and death, and you have a perfect recipe for mass anxiety.
For some, the notion of hunkering down inside again as the weather gets colder resurfaces the pain of the early months of lockdown. It also threatens to upend what for many became a pandemic coping mechanism: a summer of socially distanced, outdoor interaction with others. What are we going to do when it’s too cold to see each other in a low-risk setting?
“We deal best with anxiety when we have a plan,” according to Tonya Lester, LCSW. “Hopefully now [pandemic life] is like running a marathon and not thinking it’s a 5k, so there’s sort of a mental adjustment of settling in and dealing with this thing.”
Lester suggests starting by asking yourself: “What do I need to get through this as happily and healthily as possible? What needs to be planned for and arranged ahead of time to manage this better than I did last March?”
For frontline workers who bore the brunt of the virus’s first wave, or anyone grieving losses from Covid-19, that might mean making sure support systems are in place, Lester advises, whether that’s finding a therapist or establishing a network of friends to regularly check in with. It’s also a good time to assess your work-from-home or back-to-work routine, think about whether forming a pod with close friends or family makes sense for your situation, and figure out how to stay active. “Getting some physical activity, no matter the weather, is really important for some low mood issues people have in the winter,” Lester notes.
While the notion of going for a run or meeting up with friends in the park when it’s 30F out can be mentally intimidating, it might be as simple as making sure you’re dressed right. As the Swedes say: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
“For most people, if you go outside and you’re cold, it’s not because it’s too cold outside; it’s because you’re not wearing enough,” says Blair Braverman, an author and dog musher who lives in rural northern Wisconsin. According to Braverman, the trick is shameless layering – “Embrace the puff!” – investing in good insulated shoes, such as a thick-soled neoprene boot, and making sure to keep cotton away from your skin, because it will chill you as you sweat.
Gearing up is the secret for those who stay active in inclement weather. Rich Conroy, director of education at Bike New York, concurs that a non-cotton, sweat-wicking base layer, usually some combination of synthetics and wool on both your torso and legs (he recommends fleece-lined or spandex pants), is key for comfort while winter cycling. That, and keeping your extremities toasty with a balaclava for your head, Gore-Tex gloves and wool socks with boots. If you’re suited up right and moving, know that “your body does heat up”, Conroy says. “It’s like a car engine. It will get hot even in the winter time.”
Maybe it’s a combination of changing the mentality around our winter lifestyle and taking practical steps to prepare for it. If we embrace a vision of ourselves bundling up and convening in the park with a thermos of hot chocolate or a flask of whisky, it doesn’t sound half-bad. Remember, the consensus among epidemiologists remains that being outside poses a significantly lower risk of transmission.
Until testing becomes more widespread and available, and until we have a vaccine, we have to continue to “make risk calculations” and “reduce the harm the virus is causing”, according to Dr Amesh Adalja of Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.
“We know that coronaviruses in general accelerate their transmission when it becomes colder out, when it becomes less sunny, less humid and people can spend less time outdoors, so we have to prepare for [that] when we get into respiratory virus season,” Adalja explains. “There’s nothing we can do to change the biology of the virus. [But] you can still try and limit your social gatherings, do as much outdoors, when you have to be around people try to be six feet apart, wash your hands, wear face masks, make sure it’s ventilated.”
Even with all our best efforts, this winter might be rough, and it’s worth acknowledging that. “Know that it’s not going to last forever, we will get through this, do what you can do and accept that it’s going to be hard,” says Lester. “In normal times we are looking for optimal solutions, and during this time we are settling for mediocre solutions and doing the best that we can.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: How to cope with the long, cold Covid winter? By enjoying the outdoors | Life and style