Families, therapist share advice for beating pandemic winter blues | KSTP.com

Families, therapist share advice for beating pandemic winter blues

Richard Reeve
Updated: October 25, 2020 10:48 PM
Created: October 25, 2020 10:29 PM

With record snow, record cold, a record number of COVID-19 cases and a national election just around the corner, it’s been a challenging October for Minnesotans.

So Kevin Guinee and his family decided an outing to Como Park Zoo was just the medicine to beat those pandemic winter blues. 

“This is kind of our first winter, you know, we just moved back from Australia in February,” said Guinee, whose family is now living in Scandia. “We showed up here just in time for the kind of COVID shutdown.” 

It’s no secret many people are dealing with a lot on their plate right now.  

“I think a lot of people are stressed. There’s a lot of fear,” said Tana Welter, a licensed therapist with Sentier Psychotherapy. “There’s just so many unknowns right now. I think a lot of people are looking for answers and they’re hard to find. So also, a lot of people are kind of worn out.”

Exactly why Madeline Adkins and her family decided a zoo excursion would be the perfect way to celebrate their daughter Ivory’s second birthday. 

“The pavilion has tropical plants and animals,” Adkins says. “We’re not really inclined to come because of the weather, but it ended up being really fun.” 

Adkins's family recently moved to the Twin Cities from Philadelphia. She says she has mixed feelings about adjusting to the pandemic. 

“We’re weird because we actually home-schooled before the pandemic,” she said. “I think not being able to get together with groups of people — like we usually do a co-op — and not being able to see as many family members when we moved back has been kind of sad.” 

Welter says she’s getting a lot of inquiries about dealing with all these issues. 

“A lot of people are talking about how anxious they feel,” she notes. “Hearing a lot of just, things that used to be you know, OK for them, are a lot harder, because of their anxiety.”  

Shorter days, onset of winter weather signal difficult season for mental health

So we asked Welter about strategies to deal with all this anxiety and stress. 

“The first thing I say to people is, 'Just be really gracious with yourself,'” she said. 

Welter says it’s not a bad idea to give yourself some space — but to try connecting, too.

"Breaking out and writing a letter, sending something in the mail," she said. "Now there's a lot of board games online, you can play with friends, Zoom gatherings, things like that."

This time can be tough on the kids, but one option, Welter says, is a safe bubble. 

"I'm hearing a lot about kind of little pods that people are creating where they have a few families either in their neighborhood or at their schools that they trust and are being safe together,” she said. 

Elsie Guinee, a third grader at Scandia Elementary School, says she already does it. 

"When you're stuck in the house, you've got like nothing to do, and you're always just laying around and bored, but when you're out with friends, you're active and playing, and having so much fun,” she says.  

“Today is a perfect example,” her father Kevin adds. “It’s snowing, but we decided to come out to the zoo to just kind of get out of the house. Obviously, we’re social distancing with everybody.” 

Adkins says this will be a lot to take in — a learning experience for everyone, including Ivory. 

“She was afraid of people for a while, too,” she said. “When our neighbors would come over the first few months of the pandemic, and talk to us through the side of the fence, she would cry. Just because in her short life, she hadn’t seen other people.” 

But there were no tears today as Ivory clung to her mom’s shoulder. 

Welter says for adults, going to a gym that practices safe distancing and cleaning, online classes, or even a walk are helpful. 

She adds getting some sunlight, taking vitamin D and some supplements will help boost your mood. 

And she says putting down the phone is very helpful during these stressful times. 

"Try and find some of those silver linings, right?” Welter said. “Sometimes that could be, ‘Hey, I don't have to commute to work every morning. I can have breakfast with the kids.’ Things like that that we were missing before."

You can find more about wellness for families during the winter months here.

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