How to Survive the (Long, Dark, Pandemic) Winter
It’s a tough time for parents. (And for everyone! But we’re going to be specifically talking about parents.)
The holidays are over, the long dark winter is here—and we’re still in the throes of a global pandemic. We’re balancing work and childcare, many of us simultaneously, with remote work and remote schooling still the norm. Days are short, daylight is scarce. Your normal get-out-of-the-house spaces—a coffee shop, the gym, and for many of us, our offices—are nonexistent this year. And the cold makes it hard to even want to go outside at all.
So what’s a parent to do? Just hunker down and wait for the days to lengthen? Nah. We've got some tips below to not only help you survive this winter, but actually thrive a bit. Read on for our advice for getting through this unprecedented winter season.
See the Light
Since we’re all about how light affects sleep, this is a no-brainer for us. If you’ve followed Kulala for any length of time, you know by now how important light is to our circadian rhythm. Light wakes us up; the absence of light encourages melatonin, which makes us sleepy. So this time of year when the days are short, you may be feeling sleepier than usual.
To remedy that, consider getting a daylight-stimulating light or alarm clock, especially if you have to wake up before the sun. You can also try some light therapy lamps, which are especially important if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Or, embrace the cozy: light a fire (if you can do so safely inside your home, obviously), or invest in a new lamp. We’ve found that even just lighting some candles helps improve our mood (after the children are asleep, of course, so as to avoid burning down our homes.)
Also, and we know this is easier said than done—get outside! Sunlight is important for your circadian rhythm. Even weak, filtered winter daylight is better than no daylight at all. Bundle up (more on that below), stuff the kids into their snowsuits and bunting bags, pour your coffee into a to-go mug, and head out into the cold morning. You’ll be surprised at how much better it makes you feel, even on cold days.
Eat Your Vegetables
We know how it is: it’s cold and dark outside. You’re tired, especially with those little ones running around. When dinnertime comes, you want something hot, tasty, and easy. So you reach for the boxed mac n’ cheese—or the number for the fastest-delivering pizza place.
There’s nothing wrong with some fast-food indulgences here and there. But science shows that we need to be chowing down on fruits and vegetables more than ever in the wintertime. They contain vitamins and minerals that give you energy and make you feel less sleepy.
If a cold salad isn’t appealing to you on below-freezing days, vegetable soup is on the “easy” end of the spectrum. There’s also just chopping up some veggies, tossing them with salt and pepper and olive oil, and roasting them in the oven for a bit. Or if that mac n’ cheese or pizza is still calling your name, simply add some veggies to it. Easy, peasy, and healthy, or at least, healthier.
No gym to go to? No problem!
Just kidding. We know not having the gym to go to is far from ideal. And setting up your own home gym isn’t something we all have the space or money for.
But the good news is, there are plenty of exercises you can do at home, minimal or no equipment required. Try yoga—there are tons of free, high-quality videos on YouTube that can show you how. All you need is a mat. You can also invest in some free weights, bands, or other equipment that’s easily storable. Or, google “home workout, no equipment”—there’s tons of stuff that comes up.
And if you’re in need of some cardio—go outside! No, really. In addition to providing you with some much-needed sunlight as we mentioned before, getting your heart rate up is a great way to build energy and lower stress this time of year.
There’s a Scandinavian saying that goes, “There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” To prep yourself for your cold-weather workout, invest in cold-weather workout gear, like heat-tech leggings, gloves, a neck warmer, and ear warmers.
Play With Your Kids
We know trying to balance your own obligations with Zoom-school is making things with your kids hard right now. So make sure you’re taking some time each week to do something that you and your kids love, too. Maybe it’s racing down the block. Maybe it’s building an epic train track with their train Lego set (which we’ve found is actually tons of fun). Maybe it’s an age-appropriate board game. The point is, find something you both love doing, and do it—together.
Find Your Joy
To borrow a phrase from Marie Kondo, find something in this time that sparks joy. Whether it’s an evening around the fire pit with some wine, a bundled-up walk through the park with your favorite podcast, a Zoom call with your college friends, a new escapist TV show, or a good book—there has to be something out there you can add to your day that makes you smile. Schedule in your joy-making activity the way you would anything else.
Last but far from least, and you knew this was coming from a sleep app—prioritize sleep, for both yourself and your family. Avoid the blue light from your phones an hour before bedtime. Get yourself and your children to bed on time. Don’t overheat the rooms. Invest in a noise machine, if you’re somewhere where it can get loud.
And if your kids’ sleep is still an issue, our sleep app is always here to help. We provide you with tips and tricks to getting your child’s sleep and nap schedule on track. We also connect you with sleep experts for personalized recommendations. Download it here.