Winter brings a new set of challenges for newcomers who’ve just arrived this year. Aside from coping with the cold and all the work that goes into settling, they must also deal with COVID restrictions that are still up. This can limit their options to explore and participate in activities to help them acclimatize to their new home. This combination of isolation, cold weather, and less sunlight could also lead to loneliness, anxiety and depression.
Winter can be tough but with some practical strategies, we can all beat winter and COVID blues. Here are three tips for you:
Welcome winter as the Scandinavians do
Scandinavians are consistently ranked among the happiest people in the world despite experiencing the darkest and coldest winters. A psychologist who studied this found out that:
- Norwegians think of winter as “a special time of the year full of opportunities for enjoyment and fulfillment” rather than a season to dread.
- They love the outdoors. Norwegians regularly go outside to enjoy nature. For them, it is the best way to feel invigorated and refreshed.
- They emphasize dressing properly and safely. They wear warm woolen socks, leggings and use safety-focused reflective strips on their jackets when going outside. For them, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
- “Hygge” (or “Koselig”) is a way of life. Hygge is not only about fuzzy blankets or warm beverages. It’s more of a feeling of contentment or a sense of “psychological coziness”. You can cultivate hygge indoors by brightening up your home with lights or gathering by the fireplace and sharing stories with your family.
Focus on the positives
Appreciate winter in your thoughts and speech. Focus on simple things like being thankful for the fresh air while taking a walk outside, or as one newcomer told me “how beautiful the snow shimmers when hit by sunlight”. Take control of your thoughts and consciously choose to pay more attention to things that lift you up rather than those that bring you down.
Also, focus on what you can do now to make your situation better. Scared of getting sick in winter? Get vaccinated, eat healthy, exercise regularly, and wear a mask when outside. Feeling lonely? Reach out to your friends and family or participate in activities for newcomers. There are so many free supports for newcomers especially during this pandemic. Please don’t be afraid to connect with settlement agencies.
Make new traditions
Here are some examples:
- Bake and cook traditional food – This an activity that is sure to bring hygge in your home. Cook or bake traditional holiday foods from your home country. Teach your kids how to make these goodies. It’s fun and they learn about their heritage at the same time. Do you know where to get ethnic ingredients? Download Where to Buy Traditional Foods in Winnipeg (Food Matters Manitoba). It contains more than 70 ethnic food stores and where to find them in the city.
- Start charitable projects – Donating to a foodbank or clearing snow from your neighbour’s yard can make a big difference. It will make you feel good too! You can also encourage your kids to participate by making care packages or sponsoring a Christmas hamper.
- Learn a winter sport – Ask about free skating lessons from your nearest settlement agency. Try tobogganing in your backyard. Now is also the perfect time to explore open outdoor recreation and park amenities. Check the City of Winnipeg’s winter recreation portal.
Most importantly, remember that winter and the pandemic will pass. Soon, we’ll be able to do more things, meet friends, dine out and travel. In the meantime, let’s do our best to follow public health orders so that we’ll all see the end of COVID sooner, not later.
Sources: What Canadians can expect from COVID-19 this fall and winter, Mark Gollom, CBC News; What Scandinavians can teach us about embracing winter, Kari Leibowitz, New York Times; and Research snapshot: Finding digital mental health tools during the pandemic: A synthesis of resources, PPSP and CAMH (shared by Marco Campana). Accessed October 22, 2021.
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