As the pandemic rages with vicious variants identified, I’m focusing on positive thoughts for getting through the 2021 ‘bleak’ mid-winter.
Although Christmas is over, the words of the famous poem by Christina Rossetti, adapted into a Christmas carol, ring through my thoughts.
In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron
Water like a stone…….
It’s January in Ontario. The skies are grey and overcast on most days. The ground is frozen. Water in the pond near my walking path has turned to ice. Frosty winds blow the freshly fallen snow around forming small drifts. Daylight hours are short. The holiday festivities (such as they were) are over and the bright decorations are stowed away.
Every newscast tells of accelerating COVID case counts and deaths. Using the Emergency Measures Act, Ontario’s Premier issued orders to ‘stay-at-home’ except for essential grocery trips or medical appointments. Hospital ICUs are almost at capacity. The ‘stay-at-home’ order is to last at least one month which will take us well into February. Most public events are cancelled — even ski resorts in Ontario are closed during this lockdown! This truly feels like a bleak mid-winter!
Diversions for the Bleak Mid-winter
As a coping strategy, and, to keep my mind and body busy during this time, I’m turning to winter diversions. January is a month when it’s difficult to stay motivated. These diversions are getting me through the worst of this bleak mid-winter.
For a sense of control, I’m focused on finishing projects for which there was never enough time — especially things that I can finish in a day or two. My attention span isn’t geared for any long-term projects but I need the sense of accomplishment from small achievements. I’ve given up on the need to overachieve.
I cocoon with books. After watching too many newscasts filled with disquieting stories, it’s time for books. What’s better on a winter evening than a good novel, a blanket and a cup of tea — all of which are restorative and calming.
I’m also practicing lagom. Lagom refers to the Swedish concept of balanced living. It’s been defined as ‘just enough’ or ‘just right’. Going to excess with respect to alcohol, food, sleep, screen time, or online shopping won’t decrease the stress of staying home. Fretting about getting back to ‘normal’ (whatever that is), adds to bleakness. If interested, you can read an earlier post on lagom here https://www.postworksavvy.com/embrace-the-art-of-lagom/
Despite my gym’s closure, I push myself to exercise every day. I give myself an extra pat on the back if I exercise outdoors as then I get the benefits of natural light. Bundling up and venturing outdoors improves my mood and reduces anxiety. Colder temperatures are more tolerable when I wear my new down-filled mittens from Santa and snuggle my toes in hand-knitted woollen socks. I also use a scarf, toque, walking boots, and a windproof jacket. When it’s icy I strap cleats over my boots and use Nordic poles for balance.
The bleak mid-winter is an excuse for indulgence in warming treats. Some of my favourites include mulled wine, hot apple cider, caramel popcorn balls, maple syrup fudge and slow cooker soups and stews. Need I say more?
I’m also thinking of trying new things to keep my mind occupied and stay energized. One of my friends has joined a virtual choir. If I can convince my husband, perhaps we can have a winter picnic on our back patio. I’m also planning an indoor garden with amaryllis bulbs and herbs — anything to bring a sense of change to my life.
Most of all, I’m focusing on protecting and supporting my mental health. Mental activity such as playing the piano or playing bridge online forces my brain to use long-neglected synapses. Concentrating my senses to look at winter sunsets, listen to snow crunching underfoot, and smelling the aromas of fresh baking are small exercises in mindfulness.
We have little control over the virus nor do we have control over the lockdown restrictions but I’ll appreciate the good things of everyday life as a means of keeping a positive attitude and preserving my mental health.