With winter ahead of us and
the continued unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must
prepare more than ever to help prevent or lessen the winter
blues. Some people are understandably already feeling
very stressed and anxious due to the changes, losses,
and uncertainty of our jobs, education, family plans,
social lives, and travel restrictions. Adding the long,
dark, and cold winter days and months to this is a cause
of concern for many. The Canadian Mental Health Association
says, “We should remember that this is absolutely
the time to lean on each other. Even if we can’t
be close physically, we need to stay close emotionally.
So, while you’re staying in, stay in touch with
each other, and reach out if you need support.”
So what exactly can we do
as we approach this next potentially very difficult season?
Reduce your stress
levels—take long, slow, deep breaths. Mindfully
replace thoughts of negative worry and fear with positivity,
reflecting on past better days and those to come. Control
the controllables, letting go of what you can’t
Do what relaxes
you—limit time spent on social media and
watching the news; enjoy a hot cup of tea, read a book,
soak in a warm bath or wrap yourself up in your coziest
blanket in front of the fireplace after a long run. Listen
to your favourite music or do something that will make
Live with gratitude—write
in a reflection journal; make a list of your favourite
things, biggest accomplishments, and other life events
that leave you feeling proud and wanting to work for more.
Get good sleep—establish
a schedule where you go to sleep and wake up around the
same time every day. Avoid bright screens within a few
hours before bedtime. Unwind and clear your head before
hitting the pillow. Avoid trying to solve problems while
trying to fall asleep. Keep your bedroom cool, quiet,
dark, and comfortable. Think about that new route you
will run tomorrow.
Eat and hydrate
well—avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol,
make mealtimes calm and relaxed, and avoid eating to relieve
stress. Be mindful of your eating habits. Aim to eat a
variety of healthy foods each day that help with your
physical and mental well-being
Get outside during daylight, no matter what, even
if only for a short time—dress for the
weather and bundle up. Take a break from work. Walk the
dog. Go to the mailbox. Shorten your run if it means you
will get out and get it done. Frequent, short breaks will
also help reduce sedentary time.
Embrace winter—try those outdoor winter
activities that we can do in Canada, like skiing, skating,
and snowshoeing. Remember that you won’t lose fitness
if you take a few days off running to do some other form
of physical activity.
Help others and give back—show patience,
kindness, compassion for those around you. Check in with
someone to see how they’re doing. Be a teammate.
Encourage others to start a run/walk program or go after
a personal best. Write positive comments or “like”
peoples’ running posts on social media.
BE AN EXAMPLE—KNOW THAT SOMEONE IS WATCHING WHAT
YOU DO AND HOW YOU DEAL WITH LIFE’S DIFFICULTIES,
HOPING THEY TOO CAN SURVIVE ANOTHER DAY OR WEEK. MEDITATE,
PRAY, READ SCRIPTURE.
Soak in the natural
daylight—sit near a window or move your
desk or chair, in the room where you spend the most time,
to enjoy the brightness that reflects off the snow. Keep
curtains and blinds open during daylight hours. Wear reflective
gear if running in the dark.
Maintain your positive social and emotional relationships—arrange
regular video chats, phone calls or routine texting with
those who make you smile and feel loved. Set boundaries
for those who don’t.
Physical activity—this may be an
easy one for those of us who are runners. But what about
when we are ill, injured, or just can’t get out
the door? Allow yourself to heal or recover before resuming
your regular training routine. Once you are well again,
slowly return to where you left off. On those days where
motivation is a challenge, remember how good you feel
when you return from that run you didn’t feel like
Set new goals—plan a time trial
or virtual run that helps give you purpose and motivation
for your training. Check off a bucket list item you wouldn’t
normally do in your routine running season.
Reflect—look back on past goals
and memorable race experiences, knowing they will return.
Expect the unexpected and dream—imagine that all
of the gruelling mental and physical training in those
harsh wintry conditions will pay off in a surprisingly
big way, like a podium finish.