It's completely normal to experience the “winter blues” towards the end of the winter. Couple that with the fact that it's month-11 of the COVID-19 Pandemic and it is no surprise why we're all feeling exhausted - both mentally and physically. When our normal way of life gets up-ended, it takes an incredible amount of mental, emotional and physical energy to make the necessary adjustments that allow us to accomplish daily tasks.
According to science, the lower level of natural sunlight we are exposed to in the fall and winter can cause dips in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, disruptions in circadian rhythms which is your body’s internal clock, as well as alterations in melatonin, a hormone associated with both mood and sleep. Unfortunately this year, we've been forced to spend even more time inside at home, further exacerbating this otherwise 'normal' yet obviously not optimal annual phenomenon.
Parenting is wonderful and fulfilling, but parenting is also exhausting. Parenting in a pandemic is also wonderful and fulfilling, but it can be soul crushing. There have been so many heartbreaks over the last year. Some families have experienced profound loss. Some have had the loss of loved ones and jobs, and most all families have had a loss of "normalcy." Things that we were once able to do to bring us joy and fulfillment have become difficult and even logistically impossible during this pandemic. Vacations, get togethers, volunteering, working out, school, nights out, hobbies, sports -- you name it. Yes, after 11 months we've kind of managed to modify things to make them "pandemic-friendly" but it's just not the same.
Luckily there are SO many things we can do to mentally make it through this dark time. Here are a few of our favorite ideas that the whole (immediate of course) family can do together to beat those [pandemic] winter blues:
Get Outside - It may still be chilly in many parts of the country, but if the sun is shining, get your family outside for a hike, some skiing or sledding, or even just a walk around the block. Getting outside into the fresh air is sure to help clear your head. Disconnect from your mobile devices and take in nature's beauty. Grab your boots, pack up the kids and head over to the park or the local woods. Blaze a trail and stomp through the fresh snow, taking turns as to who gets to lead the pack. Not only will it get everyone out of the house, but it will get your heart rates up too!
Create a Bucket List - Making a collective “Bucket List” of activities or goals for each family member once the pandemic is over is a great way to improve your mental health. A bucket list is an exciting way of looking and working towards future accomplishments. You’d be surprised at the power of positive thinking! As humans, we always enjoy having something to look strive towards. It is fun to dream of new adventures in new places, new foods to try, as well as the prospect of meeting new people -- something that's virtually impossible right now. Bucket lists are also a great way to help one other become comfortable with a concept or idea that may cause anxiety and apprehension. Tack the bucket list up on the fridge and put a plan into action of how each point will be accomplished. Who knows when the COVID-19 pandemic will be over, but simply thinking and becoming mentally invested in those future goals will build confidence and improve morale.
Plan Regular Family Game Nights - Board games are not only fun, but they encourage the family to come together, literally - to the table. What family doesn’t like a little friendly competition? Or maybe your family could benefit from working together at a cooperative game. Set aside one day a week or a month, for an unplugged family game night. Rotate on who gets to choose what to play. The kids will especially love having a turn to choose the game. Of course HABA makes some of the best games for families of any age or skill level to enjoy together. Check them out! Craving the type of game night we had before the pandemic? Try playing Karuba over Zoom!