Planning for a COVID winter
Embracing winter sports, indoor hobbies and hygge
By Natalie Quiring-Oleson, MSW, LICSW • JFCS Counselor
It seems fall is coming closer to an end, with patches of snow remaining in yards reminding us of the snowstorms of October. Temperatures have fallen considerably, which means yet again, winter is coming in Minnesota. Minnesotans pride ourselves on our abilities to brave the cold and snow, although usually that is only on the way to the warm car or house.
But what about this year? The COVID-19 pandemic is persisting, despite what we could have fathomed in March. Outdoor gatherings have sustained us through the summer. Now the question on many people’s minds is “how will we get through the next 6+ months?” Here are a few tips for surviving a COVID winter.
- Start talking to your family and friends. Talk about what everyone is comfortable with – only outdoor gatherings? Indoor gatherings of a few people? Everyone wearing masks? What about the holidays? Recent restrictions from Governor Walz discourage in-person indoor gatherings of more than your household. Many people gathered virtually on Thanksgiving. There are even board games, like Drawful, and card games, that can be played online with different family members. You could do an online cooking show, where everyone is cooking/baking something at the same time, over video chat. You could also go for a winter walk outside, wearing masks. Sending holiday letters and packages could make the season extra special, especially for those you cannot see in person. Visit the PJ Library in Mpls Facebook page for lots of virtual and physically-distanced family activities for Chanukah.
- Think ahead to what you might need. With supply chains being affected by COVID, many supplies could become difficult to get in the coming months. Have you been meaning to replace your winter coat? Do you need snow pants? Do you want an outdoor heater so you can sit on your patio for longer? Or maybe you usually run or walk outdoors, but will need to switch to exercise indoors (there are tons of free at-home workouts available on YouTube!) What equipment do you need? Planning ahead is going to be really important, especially this year.
- Brush up on hobbies. One thing many of us have is extra free time. What books have you been meaning to read? What board games could your family play? What craft projects or household projects have you been putting off? What could you cook or bake this weekend?
- Embrace winter sports. Many outdoor activities are relatively COVID-safe. Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating, etc. can be done in the Twin Cities area. Many parks offer equipment rentals if you do not have your own. Don’t want to spend money? Have a snowball fight in your yard. Make snow angels and snowmen/women. Bundle up and go for a nature walk. Bribe the kids (and yourself!) with hot cocoa if they play outside
- Take care of your mental health. As has been the case throughout all of COVID, increased social isolation can negatively affect our mental health. Checking on your habits now can help when winter hits. So focusing on things like exercise, meditation, connecting with nature, healthy eating, engaging in hobbies, and staying connected with loved ones (even virtually helps!) can make a difference. If you are struggling with feelings of anxiety and depression, reach out to your doctor or to a therapist for support. JFCS has counseling staff that are available via telehealth.
- Hygge! Pronounced “hoo-ga,” this is a Danish concept. Research shows Danes are some of the happiest people on earth, despite living through terribly harsh winters. This word does not have a direct translation in English, but it basically means coziness. So if you’ve ever drank a cup of coffee on the couch under your favorite blanket, that feeling of contentment could be described as hygge. So rather than dreading the weekends where you don’t have anything planned because of COVID, what can you do to invoke hygge? Take a bubble bath. Light candles and/or a fireplace. Snuggle up on the couch with sweatpants and a blanket. Eat baked goods and drink tea. Rather than dreading winter, hygge can help you look forward to it!
It’s so easy to think of many things that we cannot do during the pandemic, but it’s so important to remember that there are still things we CAN do! With a little creativity, flexibility, and that stubborn Minnesotan stamina, we can get through this! JFCS is available at 952-546-0616 if you need help.