Happy New Year! If you’re like me, it’s a little tough to believe that the holidays are over and we’re facing a long, cold, COVID-heavy winter ahead. Omicron seems to be everywhere — every day I hear from another friend, loved one, or client who has tested positive. The pandemic felt somewhat manageable in the summer and fall months, especially once vaccines became available for teens and then kids. Now, I’m hearing from lots of people who are finding it less manageable in the cold light of January.
Like all problems that don’t have an easy solution, this one requires us to draw on our coping skills. That’s a tall order, though, when most of us feel like we’ve been coping for months and our resources are feeling a little thin. I’m hopeful that the list of coping strategies below will include at least a few new ideas to refresh your arsenal.
- Accept that this is where we are. Yes, it’s Month 21. We’re exhausted and burned out. But wishing it away won’t change anything, and if you think about it, there’s actually a lot to be proud of in having made it through as much as we have. The only way out is through — so we have to keep going.
- Get creative with connections. One of the biggest tolls COVID has taken on us is in the isolation and monotony that all of this physical distancing has created. And for those of us who live in cold climates, winter makes that even harder to overcome. I think there are often ways to connect with others that we might not think of without some real, concerted effort. For example, can you invite the neighbors over for some fun in the snow after the next storm? Would a backyard fire pit allow you to socialize outdoors with friends even though it’s so cold?
- Nature is healing. Sitting in the same place day after day can start to feel pretty awful. There’s a great deal of research that shows that the benefit of getting outside, even for 20 minutes a day, has a positive, healing effect. The fresh air, sunshine, and opportunity to see what’s going on around you in the world will feel good — I promise.
- Dive into a good book. There are silver linings to spending all this time at home, and one that I’ve really enjoyed is the time to get back into reading with regularity. The world is full of amazing books! What have you always wanted to read, and never had the time? Or maybe your favorite author has something new out.
- Learn a new skill. We are actually hugely lucky to be facing a pandemic in the age of the internet — the world is still at our fingertips! There are so many things we can learn online, even many that are free or quite affordable! You could take on woodworking, french cooking, sewing, kickboxing, yoga…
- Remember that even though it doesn’t always feel like it, things ARE getting better. Medical advancements have brought us both effective vaccines against and treatments for COVID — medications that literally didn’t exist a year and a half ago are now saving lives every day. Personally, I find it comforting to think about the likelihood that our “new normal” will not be the end of COVID, but the integration of a manageable version of COVID into society — much like the flu (read more about that here). If that is going to happen, COVID will need to become more common and less severe — and Omicron is a significant step in that direction.
- Remind yourself that this is temporary. Just like last year, we will get to experience the joy and freedom that comes with warmer weather, fewer infections, and more opportunities to be in the world in a few months. This is a tough season, but it is not forever.
What other COVID coping strategies have been working for you? Tell us all about it in the comments!
Lindsey Hoskins, PhD, L(C)MFT, provides couple, family, and individual therapy in both the Bethesda and Sterling offices, as well as virtually to those located in Maryland and Virginia. Call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary consultation with Lindsey.