A winter during COVID-19: How to stay healthy and hopeful

The winter months can feel like they last forever - especially during a pandemic. Here are some ways to keep yourself healthy and to shake off that restless, post-December feeling.

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Grace Brombach
Consumer Watchdog Associate

Author: Grace Brombach

Consumer Watchdog Associate

Started on staff: 2019
B.A., cum laude, College of the Holy Cross

Grace lives in Philadelphia, working on product safety issues and promoting better recall effectiveness. Grace loves skiing, visiting her cabin in Minnesota, and finding new restaurants in the city.

For those of us in cooler climates, it’s common every winter to feel cooped up. This winter, that cabin fever may hit a whole new level because of COVID-19, which keeps us all indoors more than ever before. As the pandemic drags on, we need to continue taking steps to protect ourselves as well as our neighbors, our friends and our families from further spread of COVID-19. With fewer things to occupy us while abiding by the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we must find safe alternatives to our usual activities that keep us happy and connected. 

Below are some options for seeing friends and family and for keeping your mind and body healthy in the midst of COVID-19. 

Form a Quarantine Bubble

Hosting or attending large get togethers or parties is still one of the riskiest ways to socialize during this pandemic, but small hangouts with a few friends or family members can be just as dangerous if those involved aren’t taking the proper precautions. As cities across the country enforce stricter safety guidelines, large to medium gatherings are prohibited in certain places. 

That’s why some experts are recommending that Americans find a “Quaranbubble” -- a small group of people who form their own social circle to quarantine together. Whether it’s your roommates, a group of students from your school/program or some trusted family or friends, laying down some ground rules with a small group you can spend time with frequently will help you keep a part of your social life, while still limiting your risk. 

Here are some questions you can ask these friends or family to confirm everyone’s on the same page:

  1. Will you hang out masked or unmasked? Outside or inside?

  2. Will you maintain distance when you spend time together?

  3. Who is working from home? Who has a higher risk job?

  4. Are social interactions with people outside the group allowed? 

  5. What are everyone’s thoughts on outdoor dining, exercise classes, etc? 

  6. How often will everyone get tested? 

  7. Are new people welcome in the group if they agree to the guidelines?

Buy your Essentials (Within Moderation)

Snow, ice and cold during the winter months can make it more difficult to get to the store, and online shipment and delivery are slowed by the same factors. It’s important that consumers have a healthy supply of everyday necessities and emergency products in their homes, especially in the event that a member of the house contracts COVID-19.

Here’s a list of important items to keep on hand, while avoiding stockpiling that can create product shortages for others. 

  1. Hand soap and other disinfecting products

  2. A digital thermometer

  3. Any prescription medications

  4. Cough and inflammation medications (cough syrup and drops, ibuprofen)

  5. Toilet paper 

  6. Boxed and long-lasting foods (pasta, rice, oatmeal and peanut butter) 

  7. Batteries

  8. Matches and candles

  9. Pet food 

Get a Flu Shot

During the winter of 2020-2021 the flu will spread in addition to COVID-19, potentially overwhelming healthcare systems with the burden of caring for both patient sets. Getting the flu is always unfortunate, but this year, it could be particularly dangerous and spreading it could take away hospital resources that are desperately needed during this pandemic. According to the CDC, the flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year and is an essential preventative tool for people with chronic health conditions. It’s a no-brainer to protect yourself and others and get your flu shot from your local pharmacy or health care provider. 

Take your Vitamins 

In our lives, many of us have had a parent or healthcare professional tell us to take our vitamins and eat our fruits and vegetables. This advice might seem simple, but it’s incredibly important. 

Including Vitamin C and Vitamin D in your diet not only helps your immune system stay in shape, but it can even boost your mood. Our bodies do not make Vitamin C, but we need it for immune function, iron absorption and more. On top of that doctors believe that a Vitamin D deficiency can even contribute to the development of Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you’re not getting these vitamins from your diet, try to add in a daily supplement and see how you feel. 

Re-do your Space 

Most of us have spent an unimagined amount of time in our houses or apartments this year, which can be draining for a number of reasons. Whether you live in a studio apartment, in a family home or somewhere in between, you may be ready for a change of scenery. If that’s the case, adding a new coat of paint on the walls, a heat lamp for your yard or porch or even a new organizational system can make you feel more comfortable in your space. 

One of the fastest ways to brighten up your house or apartment is by bringing the outdoors inside and adding plants and greenery. Not only are plants and flowers nice to look at, but they have proven health benefits. Studies have shown that indoor plants can improve productivity and concentration by up to 15 percent and increase air quality. So go buy some plants! 

Stay Busy Indoors

In whatever ways possible, it’s important to find activities that help us pass the time and keep ourselves active. Like many, I’ve spent a lot of time in the past months leaning on new and old hobbies to keep me occupied. My roommates and I swapped out boxing classes for our own punching bag filled with 300 pounds of sand, and I’ve learned that I can make a mean apple pie and New York style cheesecake. 

Whatever it may be -- there are often safe ways to do your favorite hobbies from home. For example, if you’re interested in pottery, some ceramic studios sell stay-at-home kits with all the tools and materials you need. They’ll even fire and glaze your finished pieces. If you’ve always been interested in learning an instrument or a new language, now is the perfect time. Pick a hobby or activity that has always interested you and start today. 

This has been an incredibly difficult time for so many. The most important thing moving forward is that we look out for one another, we keep ourselves safe and healthy and we do our best to keep our spirits up in the winter months to come.

Grace Brombach
Consumer Watchdog Associate

Author: Grace Brombach

Consumer Watchdog Associate

Started on staff: 2019
B.A., cum laude, College of the Holy Cross

Grace lives in Philadelphia, working on product safety issues and promoting better recall effectiveness. Grace loves skiing, visiting her cabin in Minnesota, and finding new restaurants in the city.