Coronavirus: Tips to cope with a pandemic in the winter months

To date, Canadians haven’t had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic during the harshest winter months, when the cold and snow will have their own affects on physical distancing, and increase isolation.

Registered psychologist Dr. Ganz Ferrance said people should be planning now for what they’ll do to keep busy and safe once the temperature dips below zero.

“It’s been great in the summer, it’s been awesome. Get outside, get some fresh air, see some friends social distancing, but we do have to make plans for when the weather starts to change.”

He said the winter is a difficult time for many people in the first place — because of low light levels and things like Seasonal Affective Disorder — coronavirus will only add to those challenges.

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Ferrance recommends outdoor activities like downhill skiing, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Other options include skating or tobogganing.

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And for those who may be more home-bound due to mobility issues, he says watching a nature documentary or sitting near a window are also good substitutes for being outside.

Ferrance said being in nature is soothing to both the mind and the body.

“Just to get that fresh air, that sunshine, whatever it is, seeing that the rest of the world still exists is much better than just giving in to being shut-in.”

And when it comes to maintaining socialization during the winter months, the psychologist says if physical distancing doesn’t allow for in-person interactions, video chats are the next best thing.

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“The best is face to face — being able to touch and feel and everything — the next level though, is this. Being able to see somebody and look in their eyes, see their facial expressions, their tone of voice,” he said. “Underneath that is phone.”

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Ferrnace noted speaking over the phone is better than texting or emailing, because there’s more context around what a person is saying when you can hear their tone of voice.

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He said it’s important to maintain connections with family and friends.

“When you have a good, healthy social support network — you’re connecting with people, you’re talking, you like being around folks you care about and care about you — it helps you to manage stress.

“It helps you to have the positive experiences physiologically and emotionally,” he said.

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And if you’re struggling with the new normal COVID-19 is presenting, you’re not alone.

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“We all feel this because of the stresses we’re under. There’s nothing wrong with you that you feel this way and there is help available.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide PreventionDepression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868  all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

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