Banks of soft snow, a sparkling sea of lights, cosy jumpers and happily smiling people: winter can be very pretty – in the catalogue, at least. But it also brings sludge and cold, darkness and tiredness. And this year there’s another factor, too: Covid-19 – meaning contact restrictions, closed meeting places and limited leisure opportunities. That’s why the current winter season is at least as challenging as it is beautiful.
The support hotline Dargebotene Hand confirms this: “Since the beginning of the corona crisis, call numbers have increased in waves,” says Matthias Herren, head of the Zurich office. “Most calls come in when the corona measures are eased: that’s when people see that their private problems have not simply disappeared in spite of decreasing infection figures, but might actually have got worse.” The most common issues of concern among callers are domestic confinement, loss of contact, economic insecurity, job loss and job search. And there’s also a general uncertainty about Covid-19, which can be emotionally hard to cope with: “The corona pandemic is an underlying burden that affects us all and can exacerbate existing problems,” says Herren. Calls about psychological problems and depressive moods have increased by twelve per cent, for example. “People are suffering,” says Herren. This makes it all the more important to take your own emotional state seriously and get support if necessary – whether on a hotline or from a therapist.
To prevent this from happening, it’s worth making a special effort to look after yourself and your well-being: self-care is the key. It’s important in all circumstances and seasons, but especially in winter. Why? “It starts with the weather,” says psychotherapist Felizitas Ambauen. “Due to the reduced daylight, fewer substances are produced in the brain that trigger feelings of happiness.” For this reason, she recommends getting as much exposure to light as possible – whether on walks (see Mobility excursion tips) or by using a daylight lamp (see Self-care tips). The bonus if you take a walk: you’re doing something to counter the generally more sluggish and unfavourable lifestyle people tend to embrace in winter. “Regular exercise is a natural stimulant and a great way of combating the winter blues,” Ambauen explains. She recommends making exercise a morning ritual – by walking part of the way to work, for example.
The cold season also affects our relationships. Firstly due to the fact that we are forced to spend more time indoors – something that’s currently exacerbated by having to work from home, too. “In summer we usually find it easier to regulate our emotions and find a greater sense of balance,” says Felizitas Ambauen. Secondly, Covid contact restrictions increase social isolation. “We’re a social species. Isolation makes people ill at some sooner or later, depending on how the individual is wired,” says the psychotherapist. She also points out that the sheer unpredictability of the situation can potentially lead to frustration and even resignation. Her recommendation is to be all the more conscious and creative in keeping in contact – even if it’s only virtual. “Get together with your loved ones - whether via Skype or for an aperitif via Zoom,” advises the 39-year-old. After all: “Positive relationships are good for the soul and counteract anxiety.”
Another element of self-care is to consciously invite cheerfulness into your life again and again. “Humour is actually a wonderful way to ease the situation. An amusing Netflix series can work wonders, for example.” It’s also important not to focus on fears and worries more than necessary. This includes looking to the future, says Ambauen: “Even if the confinement measures are still ongoing: they will be eased eventually and life will get back to normal.” And there’s no doubt we’re all looking forward to that.
Want to know more about what you can do for yourself to combat the corona winter blues? We summarise the best tips for you in this article.
Matthias Herren is the head of the support hotline Dargebotene Hand Zurich. Dargebotene Hand provides an opportunity for people to express their worries and fears anonymously – whether by phone (143), e-mail or chat. It can also refer people to other appropriate support services if they wish.