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This Is What You Can Do to Prepare for a Miserable COVID Winter

We collected some tangible things real people are doing to prep for the gloom ahead — from pregnancy pillows to fire pits

Odds are, we’ve got a rough winter ahead of us. Whether that means a massive surge in coronavirus cases (we’re already breaking records each day as it is) or a serious lockdown, we should brace ourselves for the idea that getting through the season might not be easy. With any difficult situation, though, expectations are key — bad times are always a little more tolerable when we’re expecting them. 

It’s grim, yes, but that’s where we’re at right now.

While purchasing specific objects may not stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder or general winter depression entirely, there are certain products that many swear by. “I usually start taking vitamin D supplements in an effort to stave off SAD,” Toronto grad student Sasha Dhesi tells me. “It works decently, especially if you’re like me and struggle with waking up before 6 a.m. during the winter.” 

“I went full wellness galaxy brain and decided to try one of those red light therapy devices,” says freelancer Miles Howard. Similarly, MEL’s social editor Alyson Lewis tells me she’s purchased a SAD lamp, pregnancy pillow and supplements. “I’m prepared for winter to suck my dick,” she says. 

Figuring out how to be outdoors this winter will also make a big difference. Investing in whatever outdoor space you might have definitely isn’t a bad idea, whether that means acquiring more comfortable outdoor furniture or buying some type of fire pit, as former Baltimore Sun reporter Cody Boteler tells me he recently did. You might also want to make sure that your cold-weather wardrobe is in check. Being able to be comfortable outside in the cold will maximize your opportunities for safer socialization and at least ensure you’re not completely locked indoors all winter. Start adjusting now, and maybe that sub-30-degree weather won’t feel as bad as the temperatures incrementally drop. 

It’s not all material, though. Matt Van Ommeren, a grad student in Germany, says that he’s practicing waking up earlier in the day so that he can enjoy more hours of sunlight. In addition to her recent purchases, Lewis says she’s also begun making lists of things she enjoys and bookmarking recipes she wants to try for future reference. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, though, the majority of getting ready for winter is mental. That doesn’t mean repeatedly reminding yourself of how depressed you might be in a month or two, but actually making tangible plans and actions that could benefit your stability from now onward. In particular, they recommend being strategic about your screen-time, both in terms of setting up Zoom dates ahead of time to look forward to, but also being a bit more conscious about the media you’re consuming, especially the news. Having digital events on your calendar or lists of activities you enjoy — even if just watching a stupid YouTube video that makes you laugh — can provide little moments of optimism and joy that you might need, too. 

Worst-case scenario, all this prep is for naught. Maybe a vaccine comes along quickly and effectively, maybe you end up surprisingly happy stuck indoors in the cold. Still, if getting ready for the forthcoming season of darkness is important enough that the Mayo Clinic is talking about it, it’s worth taking seriously. Especially now, mental health is physical health.