By Rebecca Roybal Jones

Self-Care, Creative Zoom Time & Exercise

Seeing Your Way Through the Winter Blues During COVID

Many people are finding this stretch of the pandemic especially taxing, but there is light at the end of the tunnel with news of the approval of COVID-19 vaccines. But now is not the time to relax our daily habits of wearing a mask around others, practicing social distancing and thorough hand-washing.

The challenge, says Jeffrey Katzman, MD, vice chair for Adult Clinical Services, Education and Academic Affairs in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, is to manage a holiday season that’s new territory for everyone.

Katzman will hold a webinar as part of the UNM School of Medicine’s Community Lecture Series called, “Resilience, Self-Care & COVID-19.” It takes place on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 6 p.m. Register for the event in advance.

“We’re in a really difficult time, and I don’t want to be light about it,” Katzman says. “I think it’s really difficult and it has to be acknowledged.”

Everything is different this year, from how we visit with each other to worshipping to shopping to dining out for a holiday meal – it’s all limited. If you have time off during the holidays, you likely don’t have anywhere to go. 

“Realize, this is a disaster,” Katzman says. “We hope it only happens every 100 years. (Infection) counts are going up all over the country. This is a dark time with a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Until vaccines are widely available, Katzman recommends staing  in touch with friends and family either with a phone call or through a Zoom video. Zoom is also a good way to have a one-on-one conversation, and turning off the self-view feature can take the pressure off of having to monitor what you look like in front of a camera.

Though Zoom fatigue is real for those using it all day for work- or school-related meetings, it can also be a good way to see your family by keeping the gathering interesting and engaging.

For example, Katzman says, a relative held a three-hour Zoom call over Thanksgiving while cooking.

“You don’t have to be staring at the screen the whole time,” he says. “People carried their iPhones into the kitchen to see what was cooking so they could share without physically being with each other.”

Aside from connecting with others, you don’t have to wait for the new year to begin taking care of yourself, Katzman says. Think about how to fit exercise into your day, connect with people on a regular basis and which charitable organizations you’d like to support. Ask yourself, “What am I doing about those meaningful things that help with self-esteem?”

Here are some suggestions for managing stress:

  • Learn and read about something you’re interested in. Listen to your favorite music. Sign up for a course you’d like to take.
  • We’re usually pretty distracted. Use this quiet time to keep a journal.
  • Think about how you’ll live/be after the pandemic.
  • Those who really want to see their family over the holidays might want to invest in a 14-day quarantine prior to visiting them.
  • If you plan to stay home, venture out only when you’re comfortable doing so.
  • If the darkness is getting to you, go for a walk or a bike ride in a bright place.
  • Stay active. If you normally exercise after work, schedule your swim or run for lunchtime. If you go for a walk or run after work, don a headlamp or carry a flashlight so you can get in your steps and miles.
  • There’s always online yoga or aerobics. If you’re tired of looking at the computer screen, remember it’s only for a few months until the days are longer.
  • Get out into nature as often as you can on weekends.
  • Make a list. We have lots of things we want to do in our heads: to feel good about it, write it down – it’s one way to be proactive.
  • Make plans for your next vacation, even if it won’t happen until next fall. “Plan for that, even if it has to be cancelled,” Katzman says.
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