Winter is coming

Our community has been dealing with the realities of COVID-19 for eight months now. In March, none of us could have predicted how long the pandemic would last and how deeply it would affect all our lives. From lost jobs, to juggling childcare, masks everywhere, chapped hands due to handwashing, and, of course, the threat of a deadly virus weighing heavy on all our minds.

For me, summer flew by. The warm weather arrived just in time for Stage 2, when we were all able to go out and enjoy a drink at our favourite outdoor patio. I found solace in taking my dog to the park and socially distanced visits in my in-law’s backyard. Being out in the warm summer air did wonders for my mental health and my overall anxiety about the pandemic. It brought a tiny bit of normalcy back into my life, which was a nice respite after months of what felt like walking on eggshells.

However, as we head into winter, I find myself struggling more with the realities of the pandemic. The inability to travel to see my family, the reality of a Christmas spent hunkered down at home instead of seeing friends and attending holiday gatherings, a cold, dark winter with the threat of COVID-19 hanging over us like a black cloud. It almost feels like we are headed into a long dark tunnel, and there is no stopping the train.

According to a recent CBC article, a new study from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has found that the pandemic is having serious mental health effects on the Canadian population. People are concerned about feeling isolated and the effect that social distancing measures are having on their friendships and familial relationships. Parents are worried about their children’s loneliness and social isolation. According to Statistics Canada data, only 48% of Canadians 15 and older reported having good mental health in May, 2020, down from 54% in late March/ early April, and 68% in 2018. As the CBC article states, Canadians used to be among the world’s happiest people; but perhaps not anymore.

One of the reasons for this that is outlined in the article is the lack of options for physical and social activities, which can become an increasing issue in the winter months. The article outlined that, with many gyms throughout the province closed and recreational activities on pause, many people report being less active. More than 60% of Canadians reported spending more time using the internet and watching TV during the pandemic in early April.

I’ve been speaking a lot to local business owners about how they are surviving the pandemic. Both Rebecca Cronk from Get Cronk’d Fitness Studio, and Nancy Morgan of The Workshop Dance Studio, highlighted the benefits of staying active and being social, especially in this difficult time. Nancy has several clients who have told her that her dance classes provide them with the escape they need from their own mental health struggles. Rebecca also said that, when her studio was closed, she had many people contacting her, saying how much they needed their fitness routine for both their mental and physical health.

I’m the type of person who turns into a bit of a hermit in the winter months. I don’t really like winter sports (ask my husband about taking me skiing in Tremblant), and I am definitely not a fan of the cold.

However, I know I need to push myself and stay social during the winter, especially in times like these. Looking on the bright side, there may be even more ways to stay active this winter, considering lots of yoga teachers, dance teachers, and fitness trainers are offering classes online. We are also lucky in North Grenville that most of our recreational activities have not been shut down. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been as thankful to live outside of a big city than I am right now.

Staying active and engaged in life will be the torch we need to get us through the dark abyss that is the coming winter months. While staying physically active is important, the most important part is remaining connected to our friends, family, and community. When we engage with activities and people that we enjoy, it combats feelings of loneliness, and that can do wonders to improving our mental health.

We don’t know what is going to happen day to day with the pandemic; but our first job is to take control our own actions by physical distancing, wearing masks, and washing our hands. Our next job is to make sure our mental and physical health stays intact as we collectively fight off this strange, invisible threat. Winter is coming, but we shall prevail together.

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