Preparing Your Mind for a Covid Winter

Two notebooks and a coffee mug on a bed next to a blanket
The Anticancer Lifestyle Team

Maybe you’ve been recently wondering: “How am I going to get through this particular winter, facing the extra challenges of quarantine limitations? Can I prepare myself in some way for this time?”


One of my teachers, Saki Santorelli, has spoken often about preparation in the horticultural sense. Consider how a farmer has to think: the soil must be prepared not once but over and over again, as an ongoing effort toward sustainable enrichment. Thinking about preparation in this way, can you apply this idea to the months that lie ahead of us? In other words, can you focus on what will feed you and sustain you, during a time that will probably have less of what typically brings you joy, such as fun winter activities, celebrations, and warm times with friends and family?


You might imagine that in earlier human eras, the winter season was a time to slow down and rest, to preserve energy. During the darker, shorter days, one might huddle up to the fire and reflect on the activity of the past year. There was more time to contemplate what it all meant, with time to integrate memories into the longer span of history.


What if we were to take what feels like a weight of enforced isolation and turn it into gold? Here are some ways you might continuously prepare your mind for a season of reflection and restoration:


Morning or Evening Quiet
Set aside a particular time in your day to be alone. Make it as pleasant as you can, by including hot tea, clear views out a window, or some reading that holds particular meaning for you. Give yourself time to digest what has happened and is happening. You don’t need to figure anything out or be at all productive. Just be, for your own sake.


Whether you realize it or not, there is a vast soup of emotions we’re running through these days. Do you have a way to give freedom and voice to what you’re feeling? How about this: take some time to write, to photo-journal, or to express your creative voice. Set aside any thoughts that sound like the inner art critic. Just let your hand fly across the page or the canvas. There will be plenty of time later to decide what, if anything, it actually means. For now, let it out.


Intimate Conversations
You might be truly mourning the loss of social events and family gatherings. Honor these feelings in yourself, generously. This is a real loss, and it may be that you’ll experience that loss many times in the coming months. At the same time, you might find a new value in arranging for one-to-one conversations by phone or online with those you hold most dear. Reach out, set a date and time, and agree to arrive with a mug of something delicious and enough time to connect well. You may well find these times together to have their own unique merit.


Drawing Sustenance from the Great Outdoors
Winter is often a time when we mostly give up on heading into nature. I discovered rather late in my life that the remedy for this was simple: one extra layer of clothing! Bundle up and step out into a fresh, crisp day. Or better yet, into a starry, clear night. Have a flashlight with you, and maybe a partner from your quarantine group if you have one. Drink in the cold and notice the lessons nature is shouting at us: now is the time to recede, to restore and yes, to prepare for a coming time of again springing forth and blossoming.


However it is that you care for your garden-self at this time, let it be nourishing and restorative, in the way a good gardener tends with steadiness and a view to the flow of the seasons. 



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