Winter, Mental Health, and Covid | Shawnee Area Moms

If you’re like me, winter is not your favorite season. I’m more of a sunshine and beach kind of girl so winter is usually hard for me, under normal circumstances. But add a pandemic on top of it and I am all sorts of over it!!! I can feel the depression seeping in already and it’s only January! So what are we gonna do Mama!?!

Well I did a little research and I found a great article with some helpful tips to get us through this Corona winter!!

“How to Mentally Prepare for a Pandemic Winter” on HealthMatter.nyp.org featuring Dr. Robert Leahy, an attending psychologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and a national expert in cognitive therapy.

It may come at no surprise that the pandemic is already taking a psychological toll  on many Americans. It is estimated that 1 in 3 show signs of clinical anxiety and depression. And with winter in full force, it is likely this toll will gain strength. But the good news is that despite the pandemic, there are ways to maintain a positive mindset and build resilience, according to Dr. Leahy. He says, “We have to normalize feeling frustrated, feeling irritated, feeling a little bit depressed,” Dr. Leahy told us in our new episode of Health Matters Today. “You have a right to those feelings, but even if you have a right to those feelings, you also have a right to do things that will help you cope better with those feelings.”

Lucky for us, Dr. Leahy has some tips for protecting our mental health and preparing for a pandemic winter.  Keep reading for the tips he gives on the podcast Health Matters Today. And if you want the full discussion, listen to the podcast. 

Don’t hibernate this winter

I don’t think that harboring in place is necessary in the winter or any time. Dress for the weather and go outside. Go for walks, meet people outside at a social distance, go to the park, or go to the street corner and stand 6 feet apart. Wear masks, and laugh together. Be willing to tolerate a little bit more discomfort, so you become resilient.

Being resilient means tolerating what I call constructive discomfort — something that is uncomfortable that moves you forward, like exercising or watching your diet. It may be uncomfortable, but discomfort is not going to kill you. In fact, it could be that isolation and passivity could harm you. So get out and connect.

Resilient people reevaluate their expectations and then focus on new goals.

Adjust your expectations

Part of frustration is expectation. If I expect that I can do everything I did before the pandemic, I’ll be frustrated. Change the expectation to match reality, which is different now. I’m not going into my office and seeing my patients and staff for a while. But I can make the best of what I do have, which doesn’t mean it’s perfect or that I have to love every minute of it.

Maybe you can make it better by having a more productive day or reaching out to friends or being grateful. There’s always room for improvement, but there’s also the reality that things could be a lot worse as well. Rather than focusing on what you cannot do, it’s valuable to focus on what you can do.

Schedule “worry time”

Many people who worry find that if a negative thought appears, they spend a lot of time with it and dwell on it. They may feel helpless in the face of that negative thought. So I encourage my patients to set aside 15 to 20 minutes in the afternoon and make an appointment with their worry. If you have persistent worries during the day, write them down and tell yourself, “I’ll get to this around 3 p.m.” When it’s time to worry, ask yourself if your negative thought is productive or unproductive.

There is a difference between productive and unproductive worry. Productive worry leads to taking action on something you can do today. For example, what can you do to reduce your risk? Wash your hands — do all the things that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. That is productive action. Unproductive worry is asking yourself, “What if …?” For example, “What if I’m walking down the street and someone coughs on me?” These things are beyond our control, and the worry is unproductive.

I’m not telling people not to worry, but if you’re going to worry, set aside a time so it doesn’t consume you, and then turn it into productive action.

“Rather than focusing on what you cannot do, it’s valuable to focus on what you can do.”

— Dr. Robert Leahy

Keep a schedule

If you’re reading disaster stories online, you’re likely to be pretty pessimistic and anxious. On the other hand, having tasks that you schedule and accomplish will help you get your mind off the pandemic winter or off your anxieties, and you wake up in the morning and feel like you have a purpose for getting up.

Lots of folks have lost their usual routines, and that unstructured time can also lead to rumination and passivity, high risk factors for depression. Schedule your day, down to the hour. At the end of the day, check things off and make a to-do list for the next day, so you can look forward to things. Create a set of goals for the week and for the month, then make some longer-term goals.

The reason I suggest scheduling them: If you wait around to feel motivated to do it, you’ll just lie there, ruminate, be passive, and get very little done. Don’t wait to feel inspired or motivated — schedule it and do it. Make it an obligation to yourself.

Connect with others (even if not face-to-face)

Reach out to people you haven’t connected with in a while. Actually use your smartphone as a telephone by calling somebody and talking to them. Take a proactive rather than a passive approach, engage rather than avoid, and connect rather than pull away or isolate — these are the key things.

We often underestimate how important it is to express connection, love, and gratitude.

While the holidays may look different this year, you can still connect and show your gratitude by telling people you love them, which will also help you get through this pandemic winter.

Aren’t those great tips?!? Part of why I started Shawnee Area Moms Network is for connection. If you’re struggling with your mental health, please reach out and connect today!! We got this Mama!!

 

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