Posted 23rd September, 2020

6 months down, 6 months to go.

With the clear messaging from the British government now being to work from home where possible and to reduce social contact, we are realising this is going to be a long, hard winter ahead. Whilst we are all creating our own version of the new way of living and forming our own ‘pandemic lifestyles’, it’s so important to remain positive, pull together, and look out for one another so that we can all get through this as quickly and, more importantly, as healthily as possible.

It is vital to take care of your mental, emotional and physical health especially during the colder, darker winter months when the temptation is there to sit on the sofa and binge watch Netflix.

One of the best things you can focus on is to get yourself outside. This is absolutely key! Working from home means most of us will be forgoing any type of commute, and no social interaction with colleagues - this will lead to a lot of isolated time indoors. Getting outside even for 15 minutes a day will do wonders for you.  

If you have a garden or outside space take your morning coffee out there or try to sit outdoors after your work finishes for the day. Read the newspaper outside under a blanket if it's cold. Wrap up warm and take a walk for 20 minutes at lunchtime - this is especially helpful if you are spending a lot of time alone. Seeing your neighbours or even just friendly faces as you walk around your local area will give you a sense of human contact and community.

If you spend a lot of time on the phone for work, you could try to take a few phone calls outside each day. If you are into exercising, running outside or quick bodyweight circuit in the garden will provide a double whammy of goodness. Getting yourself togged up with the appropriate waterproofs and warm clothing will make your experience much happier – no soggy boots or soaked jumpers. Get your immediate household outside with you if you can, especially at weekends. Make incorporating outdoor time as a family a priority – it will benefit each and every one of us. Even better is to try and build this outdoor time into your daily and weekly routines, so that it becomes a staple part of your life and a commitment, no excuses.

Being outdoors and getting a change of scenery has so many benefits, including getting Vitamin D, reducing anxiety, improving your sleep cycles, improving focus and creativity and boosting immunity. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a huge amount of stress and worry for so many people and, as a society, we need to be doing everything we can to mitigate the effects of this on ourselves and each other.

Jess used to live in Sweden and having experienced how the Swedes cycle between their harsher winters and the long hot summers, she is a firm believer in not letting the winter months confine you to the house. Swedish winters offer about 6 hours of daylight and a lot of snow - they make up for this in their very social summer months with around 18 hours of sunlight and warmth.

What they focus on during their winters is to make it as bearable as possible and to live ‘off-clock’ -  there isn’t so much of a focus on what time it is but more what possibilities are available at any given stage of the day. For example, when the daylight appears fully at around 11 am everyone, be it at the office or at home, will get outside for a walk and say hello to each other. The Swedes traditionally eat their lunch early at 12 o'clock, usually at cosy cafes outside under blankets and outdoor heaters. It's no surprise the Scandanavian’s coined the ‘Hygge’ concept – all about cosiness and contentment. They are experts at creating warmth, be it via traditional saunas, low strategic lighting, candles, fire and layering which boosts their moods, brings them happiness and creates perfect environments to come home to after brisk walks outside in the cold. They have a national commitment to all types of winter sports which enables social and physical benefits, embracing the winter season and making it work for them.

Surviving the Nordic winter is all about creating a sustainable routine where you make the effort of getting outside, meeting people, getting some movement and exercise, and absorbing the sunlight. Most public buildings and spaces in the capital city of Stockholm have raked seating around their grounds which enables Swedes to sit and absorb the precious sunrays as and when they appear. It’s not unusual to walk down the street and when a blast of sunlight appears to witness everyone coming to a standstill, turning their faces up to the sky to soak up the warmth of the sun.

The point of this detail and the message here is to go against your intuition - during winter we feel like hibernating and whilst there is a lot to be said for slowing down and preserving energy, it is crucial to get yourself outside and exposed to nature, sunlight and the elements. Do it for your mental health!