Eight ways to help you weather winter during the pandemic

As the rain and cold returns, many of us are worried about how we will manage COVID-19 indoors.

We are looking ahead to our Northwest rainy season. But this year, we look ahead through the lens of the coronavirus. It will be different than years past.

As we head indoors, we are expecting a surge in the infection rate, which may result in a return to greater public health restrictions. In 2020, uncertainty reigns. We are becoming more familiar with the lack of predictability, but certainly not more comfortable.

As the rain and cooler weather returns, many adults are worried about how they will manage. It’s going to be more difficult to connect with family and friends in back yards and on decks. For adults living alone, it could be a lonely winter. Kids will likely be learning at home. It could be tough going.

So how can we weather this cooler weather during the pandemic?

Get outside. As a good friend of mine says, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.” Put on your rain suit and get outside. On weekends, seek out lowland hikes. What about snowshoeing? Cross country skiing? Hopefully, downhill ski areas will be open. Take a trip to the other side of the mountains and get some sun. Don’t put your bike away.

Be creative. My neighbor bought an open-air shelter to cover her outdoor picnic table and a couple of outdoor heaters. She and her friends will at least be dry while they bundle up and clink their glasses this winter. Another neighbor bought a fire pit. He’s looking forward to sitting out with a few friends around the fire in his back yard. Many restaurants around the world are designing outdoor eating spaces that will be safe, cozy and comfortable.

Take a class. It’s a great time to log onto classes on every subject, streaming from everywhere to anywhere. I’m enrolled in an online tai chi class. My wife is taking a writing class. My wife takes several ballet classes a week from dance schools in New York, Portland and San Francisco. I take a weekly exercise class with a fitness instructor. Most of these classes are less expensive because they can accommodate many more students. How about a family yoga class?

Community colleges and universities offer online classes for the public. It’s a fine time to learn new skills or study new areas of interest. I’m taking a class on neurofeedback with an instructor on the East Coast.

Go to the ballet — online. My wife just bought a subscription to the ballet this winter at Pacific Northwest Ballet, live streamed. Arts organizations are reconfiguring themselves for the pandemic. We need to support them so they will be here when the pandemic is over. And we can still enjoy ballet dancers leaping in air.

Put a little excitement into your week. How about dye-your-hair-purple week? Dress up for dinner? Organize an outside treasure hunt? Play board games with your kids? Tie-dye shirts? Grow your hair long?

Cook. Like scores of others, I’m becoming a baker. I grew my own sourdough starter, and each week I make a new bread recipe. My wife observed that my cooking has vastly improved. I am starting to watch cooking videos on FaceTime. It’s fun.

Help your neighbors. If you’re doing OK financially, donate a little more to help our community. We’re spending less money on travel, so spend a little more to support local restaurants, shops and food banks. We’re all in this together.

Watch out. This is a risky time for increased drinking and marijuana use. Take a fearless inventory — has your substance use increased? Don’t let it drift upward. Alcohol and cannabis can be potent depressants, making you feel temporarily better but worse in the long run.

We’ll get through this — don’t let the rain dampen your spirits.

Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic. His Family Talk blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/family-talk-blog.

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