Blackperspective: Coping with COVID this winter and Christmas (Part 1)
Updated: Nov 22, 2020
In November I was approached by ADIRA, a service user-led organisation for Black mental health based in Sheffield, to do a short piece for people with ideas on how we can cope with Covid-19 during winter and the Christmas period (Part 1 of 2).
It is going to be a long winter this year..
Winter and the holiday season can already be a challenging time for many, as this time of year often brings into acute focus what we have and what we don’t have. Which for some can mean loved ones who are no longer with us, or feelings of being on the margins or missing out where everyone else seems to be having a “merry old time”. Getting stuck in these feelings can lead to other problems like anxiety, depression or even psychosis. Another reaction to these feelings when they become chronic or overwhelming is thinking about suicide. If you notice these thoughts occurring don’t panic – but it is important that you speak to someone (someone you trust or a professional) and tell them how you feel.
We can usually distance ourselves from these feelings of loss and sadness by throwing ourselves into work, study, volunteering etc – or generally keeping busy. This year is different though. As we have seen, Covid-19 has stripped away our usual ways of living and coping. For some this has meant loss of loved ones, livelihoods, plans for the year (getting married, travelling, family gatherings etc) or even simply the loss of small comforts and our daily routines.
So, without further ado here are some ideas on what you can do to cope during the coming months.
It is a marathon not a sprint…
The government has said that this current lockdown will end in December. Regardless of whether it ends in December, the scientists and researchers are suggesting it will be Spring before we are in a better place with the combined effects of restrictive measures, rapid testing and vaccines making a difference. What this means is that depending on what message we tune in to, we could be gearing up for a sprint (December) or a marathon (Spring next year).
Gearing up for a marathon, psychologically speaking, is going to fare us better in the long run. By making decisions to survive a long winter now, you are more likely to be practically and mentally prepared for what lies ahead. The worst-case scenario is that your preparations see you through the winter and while it continues to be bad you are ready, and this will go some way towards softening the blow. At best it does end before spring and you can celebrate the relief of being able to see friends and family or return to work etc.
If we decide this is a sprint and pin our hopes on this being over by December, the worst-case scenario is more dire, as not only may we not be prepared for what follows but it is heartbreaking for hopes to be raised and dashed again – this disappointment can be harder to bear when we are already stressed or vulnerable.
Knowledge is power…
Growing up as Black person in the UK there were certain messages which were frequently given to me from adults in my community. The phrase “knowledge is power” may have been aimed at encouraging me to get a good education in order to get a good job and succeed and so on and so forth, however I want to expand that to include the current situation. Being clear about what you can and can’t do and what you do and don’t have access to, will empower you (and help you empower others) to make decisions over the coming months. In a time where we might be feeling powerless, being in the know will allow you to gain a little of that power back.
Be sure to use official websites like:
for advice around finances:
https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/coronavirus-help/ is a good source.
Look out on social media for local organisations which might be sharing things you can access/join.
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail…
This is going to mean different things for different people. Fundamentally though, it is important to set some realistic expectations and informed yourself about the facts so that you can make a rough plan of what the next few months look like. Make sure you have a budget and that you can live within your means whatever your income might be. This includes planning something to look forward to (however small). Taking care of these practical steps goes a long way to contributing to your mental health and will help you sleep soundly at night! Once these essentials are accounted for you can start to think about how you can spend your time wisely. One thing that I would highly recommend you factor into your budget is wifi (if you have not done so already). Many of the following strategies rely on having a stable internet connection!
As it is winter, generally a time that is colder and darker which means a lot of us spend much more time indoors, making the most of this time at home is vital to coping well. We are all familiar with the saying of the glass being half empty or half full. Being stuck at home, while not ideal, presents us with an opportunity. Do the things that you have been putting off or started but didn’t finish and do it at your own pace. Now can be a good time to rekindle old hobbies, start reading again or catch-up on some TV/movies. It might be a good time to learn a language – there are free apps and websites which can help you do this, or brush up on maths skills? How about getting into music or writing or some other creative activity?
I would suggest:
For learning specifically for the Black community check out:
Finding your internal rhythm...
Now you have a plan, you have checked the facts, and you even have some things to keep you busy. One of the first things we lose due to Covid-19 is our routine. With shorter days and longer nights, it is important that we set our internal clocks and get into a regular rhythm (the kind that having activities or jobs to do during the day helps with). We talk about the “basics” – which isn’t the same as “easy” – but essentially it is the bare minimum we should be doing in order to be healthy and cope well. This means going to bed and getting up at regular times or regularly eating solid meals (whether that is once, twice, three times or more). Consistently seeing to our basic bodily needs every day will help us find a natural rhythm that helps maintain our sense of wellbeing and purpose. It also helps us to be healthy in order to keep illness and stress at bay. In and around these times you can schedule the newly discovered or rediscovered hobbies we discussed earlier.
Come back for part 2 where we discuss the importance of movement, connecting with yourself and others.
For more information see:
This blog post is part 1 of 2 based on a talk for ADIRA which (if you want to skip ahead) you can listen to below.