Surviving a pandemic is about more than physical health, it’s also about mental health.
If you live alone, how do you get through the challenges of isolation? And what if you live in a climate where winter is long, dark, and bone-chillingly cold?
Winter is a predictable part of life in Canada, but pandemic + winter is a combination most of us have never had to deal with before. Usually winter just creeps up on me, before I’ve even swapped my drawers of T-shirts and summer shorts for the cozy sweaters in storage bins.
But not this year. Given the exceptional circumstances, I decided in late summer to start consciously thinking about how I could make this winter more bearable, while not spending every moment glued to an electronic device. This article about how Norwegians not only get through winter – but thrive – helped me reframe and get inspired to start stockpiling some joy I can call on a bit further down the road.
First I started thinking about my physical space. I’m lucky to live in a cozy apartment with enough space not to feel hemmed in or trapped. But what could I do to make it feel even cozier? I had some cute fairy lights that I hadn’t ever done much with, and asked a friend adept at home decor if she had any ideas about what I might do with them. “Why not put them in a glass bowl,” she said. That could look really cute.
I didn’t have a bowl, but I remembered a large glass vase. Not big enough to fit all the lights, but after gazing around my flat I realized the plant stand could be a perfect home for the setup.
I did other things too. I got a couple more plants. I bought a patio heater, to extend the period in which I can host visitors outdoors. (My plans were thwarted by the province’s new lockdown restrictions, but I’m hoping to use it later this fall if Québec shapes up.)
While I’m out on the patio by myself, I fantasize about what sort of gardening I might do next year: I’ll try to grow some herbs again, hopefully figuring out why I killed two cilantro plants this year. Maybe try to replicate my friend Victoria’s great success with balcony basil and tomatoes.
What about crafts? Working with your hands can be meditative, plus you usually end up with something to show for it. I decided to try cross-stitching and ordered a cute beginner kit from a seller on Etsy. I’m looking forward to working on it, with a cat on my legs and fairy lights glowing.
I’ve also pondered trying a jigsaw puzzle, which a lot of people have gotten into, or rediscovered. I’m still contemplating these gorgeous wooden creations based on Canadian artwork, and in the meantime, a kind friend dropped off a couple of puzzles I can try out, to see if I enjoy the pastime.
One of the parts of travel I actually miss is spending all the time on planes and waiting at airports reading articles I’ve loaded up on Instapaper. I’ve still been saving them to read “later,” but I’m going to try to make a point to actually peruse them, even if it’s sitting on my couch at home.
I’ve also reserved some books from the library instead of buying them, and am excited to get that email, informing me they’re ready to be picked up. I’m thankful that even though our libraries are once again closed to browsing, reservations and inter-library loans are still available. After experimenting with some ebooks during the last lockdown, I’ve come to the conclusion that I still like reading on paper best.
I’ll still be cooking and baking a lot – check out some of the goodies I made during the first wave – and am planning to try some new recipes. (Scallion pancakes, here I come!)
One thing I need to make a point to do is get outside into nature. It always invigorates me, and I don’t do it enough. I’d like to get back to the Botanical Gardens, and go for a walk on the mountain (aka Mont-Royal). I’ve even toyed with the idea of getting showshoes, even if none have been procured so far. I can find it hard to get motivated to do these types of activities by myself, so friends will be pinged.
There are also a wealth of online activities these days, and I’m always keeping my eye out for these. I’ve taken part in online book launches, comedy festivals, and even a mixed media art class. I love seeing what my friends around the world are up to; for all its evils, Facebook is great for that, and I often partake in events I wouldn’t have been able to attend in person.
As I was writing this post, I got an email informing me that it’s World Mental Health Day today, featuring a video with Dr. Laurie Santos’s five favourite evidence-based coping strategies: exercise, gratitude, sleep, getting social, and being with your emotions.
Sounds good to me. Let’s see how it goes. Bon courage, everyone.