The sun is going down earlier. Halloween candies have been replaced with gourds and wreaths. Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is you” now haunts every shopping experience you undertake.
Winter is coming.
Many people easily slide into their end-of-year routines full of holiday gatherings and comfort foods galore. But 2020’s winter will present a whole host of new challenges in the coronavirus lockdowns, remote work, and quarantining.
Are you worried you and your partner will be relegated to brooding in your home, shut away from the world? Not if you’re mindful, careful, and hopeful. We understand how important it is to our mental health to maintain the connections with those we love. But colder temperatures mean an environment ripe with airborne pathogens. Here are a few ways to live your best winter life while mitigating covid-19 risk.
1. Get a good snooze
While you sleep, your brain goes through several cycles of deep and light sleep broken into two categories: NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement). Completing all stages of your sleep cycle is crucial to your brain health as it’s the alternating between these stages of sleep that allows your brain to restore and heal itself. The successful completion of all stages of sleep is known as restorative sleep.
Restorative sleep lends many benefits to the human body beyond neurological such as boosting your immune system, improving your memory, preventing unhealthy weight gain, and strengthening your heart.
- Don’t use screens in your bed. If you have a TV in your room, remove it.
- Once the sun goes down, switch your screens to a warmer tint or “night mode” removing most blue light from your screens. Blue light stimulates the retinas keeping you from getting sleepy at an appropriate time. Laptops, cell phones, even newer TVs can be altered in their settings to remove blue light.
- Don’t lay in your bed throughout the day. You want your brain to understand that when it finds itself in your bed, it’s tme for nothing else except sleep.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same, consistently.
- Don’t drink caffeine past noon. Eliminate tobacco. Build a concistent exercise routine, but don’t exercise within 4 hrs of sleep.
- Gradually invest in a comfortable bed for you both. A mattress perfectly suited to your spinal comfort, high thread count linen, pillows for your style of sleeping. You’ll spend a third of your life in it, so it’s worth it.
2. Nourish your body well
I mentioned earlier how winter creates an environment favorable to spreading sicknesses. Pathogens thrive in colder environments, especially airborne illnesses that can linger in the air for longer periods of time increasing likelihood of transmissions. Heading into the 2nd winter of a global pandemic, historically worse than the first winter, of a bio aerosol-level virus makes it even more urgent that we nourish our bodies as best we can to prepare ourselves as best we can.
To optimally prepare your body for this winter, here’s what to indulge and avoid.
- Vitamin D may be one of the most crucial nutrients you can ensure you have enough of this winter. It helps stave off seasonal affective disorder and weight gain while also acting as an octane-like fuel for your immune system, which will be critical to this winter. Standing in the sun for 15 min at it’s peak can load us up with 20,000 IUs of VitD.
- Vitamin C has long had the myth of sickness-prevention tied to it. Sorry if I’m bursting any bubbles here, but it acts more as a symptom reducer once you’ve become sick. It’s still imperative to your recovery that you eat enough VitC in citrus fruits, leafy greens, and even bell peppers.
- Iron produces hemoglobins which transport oxygen to your muscles while also helping regulate your body temperature.
- Vitamin E will keep your skin healthy and prevent dryness, itching, or flaking.
- B vitamins are mainly responsible for the conversion of your food to the energy you need to keep working towards your goals.
- Stay away (as much as possible) from sugar, refined grains, simple carbs, processed meat/foods, and alcohol. These are all shown to weaken your immune system and potentially starve your body of other vital nutrients through your microbiome.
3. Stay Informed
Regularly check bulletins from scientific institutions to stay up to date on how best to protect each other. This will contain useful info like any significant virus mutations and new covid-19 hotspots.
Wear a mask everywhere you go. Invest in a face shield to protect your eyes from viral droplets that can survive lingering in the air much longer due to lower temperatures.
Socially distance, don’t leisurely air travel, don’t gather in large groups especially in small areas.
Don’t make unnecessary trips if there’s coronavirus actively spreading in your community.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Call the HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. ET or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re in crisis or for any reason you are unable to talk safely, text NAMI to 741741.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline. 800-273-TALK (8255)
Self-Injury Outreach and Support. Learn and/or share personal stories while learning coping skills for the urge to self-harm.
If you enjoyed reading about caring for yourself and partner this winter, you may also like this Psych Today article: 5 Ways to Help Your Partner Be Their Best Self written by Dr. Alice Boyes.