Weathering a COVID winter


There are tried-and-true ways to stay strong during challenging times.


A message from Dr. Shannon McDonald, FNHA Acting Chief Medical Officer

Winter is upon us, and we're in the middle of a pandemic, so it's a good idea to prepare ourselves to deal with darker, colder days while also dealing with the COVID-related isolation and stress. Our need for human interaction and community is already affected by COVID; many places of social activity are closed, and we aren’t able to get outside as easily to enjoy activities like outdoor restaurant dining or physically distanced walks​.

With this in mind, I want to share some strategies that will help us get through the upcoming winter months in good mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. These COVID-specific strategies are meant to be applied in addition to the FNHA's public health recommendations, and our usual and foundational prescription for keeping ourselves strong, healthy, well, and balanced (i.e., Being Active, Eating Healthy, Nurturing Spirit, and Respecting Tobacco).

1. Keep your hopes up. Focus on the light at the end of the tunnel: remind yourself daily that this, too, will pass, spring will bloom again, and a COVID vaccine is getting closer and closer. This is a tough time, but it is temporary. Affirmations are helpful to keep yourself encouraged: “I am strong. I have intergenerational resilience. I am well able to get through this. Tough times don't last, but tough people do."

2. Accept the situation. Instead of resisting reality by complaining or being negative, decide to accept that things will be different and difficult for a while. It has been said that “pain x resistance = suffering." Resisting reality, or thinking and talking about how awful things are, and how they should be better, will only make the wait seem longer and more unpleasant for yourself and those around you.

3. Find joy in small things. We may not be able to travel, vacation, or gather right now, but there are still things to be happy about. These could involve cuddling with a loved one, including your pet dog or cat; preparing and enjoying a nutritious meal; connecting with the Creator through prayer; reading a book; listening to music; having a conversation (even if it's via Zoom) with a friend or family member; or getting out on the land when possible (do try to get some sunlight every day).

4. Practise gratitude. Every morning, think of at least three things you are grateful for. You might even want to keep a gratitude journal. Having an “attitude of gratitude" helps you appreciate what you have, which in turn helps you be happier, more optimistic, and more likely to lift others' spirits.

5. Set small goals. For example, if you don't cook or exercise but have always wanted to, you could try out simple recipes or aim for 15 minutes of exercise each day with the goal of slowly increasing your abilities to the level you desire, no matter how long that takes. Check out our Beginner's Exercise Cards here, or try one of the many exercise options on Facebook and YouTube, such as N8V Dance Fitness!

6. Get creative! When we engage in creative activities such as beading, sketching, painting, learning a language, playing an instrument, making pottery, or building something, we feel happier. There are many different free online groups to join right now, including an online beading group that meets every Monday on Zoom at 4 p.m. Pacific Time. Email for more information.

7. Sleep well. Even though your schedule may not be the same as it was before COVID, set a regular time to go to bed. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Avoid too much light for one to two hours before bedtime (including from your computer, phone, TV, or bedside lamp). For some great tips on sleeping well, view this link.

8. Get moving. In addition to exercising regularly, it's even more important than ever to get up and move. Now that many of us are working from home and staying at home a lot, it's a good idea to get up from the computer every hour or two and stretch. You can even take short dance breaks – put on your favourite music and shake out any stiffness. If you live alone, you can truly dance like no one is watching – because, of course, no one is!

Please take good care of yourself this winter – and beyond. You are worth it! I also encourage you to take some time to review the excellent tips in the infographic below about ways families can help each other through the winter lockdown.


Download a print version of this article here​.

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