20 tips on surviving the COVID winter.

I hate 2020. It’s the worst year I can remember. Between the pandemic, the shutdown, the plunging economy, the overloaded medical system, the mask debate, and the looming elections, I can’t remember a worse one.

And it’s not over yet.

From doctors to politicians, all those who know what they’re talking about, and some who don’t, think that the coming winter will be worse. And, unlike the calendar, winter doesn’t end with December. We’re talking months of the 2020 misery compounded by short days, bad weather, and socially isolated winter celebrations.

How will we stay alive and slightly sane until it’s over?

That’s what I asked myself as I listened to the news while struggling to zip my raincoat to take the dog out in the nasty rain – after cleaning the puddle in the dining room.

Organized as always, I made a list you may find useful. If you happen to be one of those who don’t need a social life, don’t worry about money, and don’t long for spring, feel free to share your recipe with us, the humans. We’ll all think of you lovingly. As for me, this is my list.

1. Accept reality. No matter how much you wish, it wasn’t so, this is the reality we all live in. Denying it won’t make it go away. It will just make it harder to deal with it.
2. Get ready for more shutdowns. That’s what happened to France, Great Britain, and others. It may happen here. Stock what you’ll need, besides toilet paper. A generator? Your medications? Batteries? Hair dye?
3. Behave like you may have the virus, even at home. Don’t share your cutlery, your glass, your toothbrush. Wash your hands often, and don’t lick the kids’ ice-cream.
4. Make a plan in case you get sick. How will you self-isolate? Who’ll care for the kids? Walk the dog? Speak to those who’ll have to take over.
5. Start a project and set deadlines. Whether it’s cleaning the pantry, training the cat, or becoming vegetarian, committing to a project will make time go faster. And give you something to brag about.
6. Rest. Tired people make mistakes, get compassion fatigue, and lose touch with the joy in their life. Say no to that extra shift. Health trumps money.
7. Learn a new skill. The internet is full of online courses. You can learn anything, from dog training to poker, as you sit on your sofa. Whether it’s photography, knitting, or getting a degree, use this time to enrich yourself.
8. Do something you enjoy every day. Watch a movie, quilt, take a hot bath. Doing something you love will lower your stress and help keep you sane.
9. Work out every day. Whether it’s kickboxing, chair yoga, or walking the dog, working out will make you healthier, stronger, and happier.
10. Do something to make others happy. Bake a cake for your coworkers, grab some groceries to help your neighbor, or call Grandma, even if she’s not sure who you are. Making others happy will give you purpose and joy.
11. Watch your weight. Few say it, but obesity is a substantial COVID risk factor. Not great for your heart and joints, either. If you’re overweight, losing weight will help keep you healthy.
12. Connect with people. Call your high-school buddies, look up your old friends, send a birthday card to your ex. Connecting, even virtually, will help keep you grounded.
13. Make a plan for the winter celebrations. Avoid large gatherings. Look for alternatives: a Zoom Thanksgiving dinner, mailing stocking stuffers, meet for a hike. But if you must meet in person, don’t go if you’re sick, social distance, and keep the windows open.
14. List your happy memories: Your first time fishing; your son’s graduation; your wedding (or your divorce). Make a list and put it on the fridge for those pesky low days.
15. Stay in touch with your doctor. No matter who says what, your doctor wants you to be well. If for no other reason, because they’re already overworked. Follow their instructions, take your medications, and call them if you’re having trouble.
16. Take time for yourself. Find a couple of hours every week to check on your inner self. Are you hanging from a thread? If you’re losing it, seek help. It’s not wimpy. It’s smart.
17. Turn off the news. No matter what, half of us will feel broken after the elections. There’s no point in rubbing salt in the wound – yours or others’. If you lose, remember that that’s democracy. Everybody’s vote counts. In four years, you’ll get a redo. If you win, remember that so many are mourning. Don’t be a sore winner. Let them grieve.
18. Wear a mask. It will protect you not only from COVID but also from the flu and pesky colds. The flu season is here, and the flu sucks. You’ll be even more miserable if you get sick.
19. Be kind to others. Most people aren’t evil. Their mistakes are born of ignorance, anger, or hurt, and we can all use some learning.
20. Finally, remember that this too shall pass.

Good luck, stay safe, and stay sane. As always, I can’t wait to hear from you.


Rada Jones is an ER doc in Upstate NY, where she lives with her husband and his deaf black cat Paxil. She is the author of three ER thrillers, Overdose, Mercy and Poison, and “Stay Away From My ER,” a collection of medical essays.


7 thoughts on “20 tips on surviving the COVID winter.

  1. Thank you for what you do. I can not fathom living in NY, especially after 9/11. God Bless you and your and stay safe

  2. I like your list. And your dog. Where is “upstate” NY where you are? I grew up around 13669 and was born in Saranac Lake, NY.

  3. What a sorry life your are having! I only know you by your writing but surely hope your situation improves. Here is an alternative I sent to a friend–also in Upstate NY:

    I wrote: “Totally unrelated, I can’t imagine living in NY–or any other city. I assume that many will come unglued tomorrow, unless one of the candidates wins by a substantial margin.

    Living on a large comfortable yacht moored in an alfalfa field surrounded by rangelands, our lives are ever better. Essentially, our home is a place where responsible liberty, environmental quality and modest prosperity converge. Further, our community is small, homogeneous and stable: hence trust is the norm. (I’m collecting examples.)

    Further, health, like disease, is contagious. Really quite remarkable. People don’t qualify for senior discounts on season ski passes until their 80th birthday! (Otherwise retirees would swamp the cafe/bar.) A visitor from the midwest was in BZN for a week and finally asked his host: “Am I the only person in Bozeman who smokes?” Answer: “Yes, nearly the only one.”

    Also, nearly no underclass. And no inexpensive housing. (Exceptions are special cases such as on our ranch.). Teton Heritage Builders, a home construction outfit working at Big Sky, starts its lowest laborers @ $26/hr with full benefits–goes to $29 at three weeks.

    We also have fine medical care; docs like to come here. Our Bozeman Deaconess Hospital is always upgrading–now a $15 mil expansion and an MD program with U of Washington.

    The coronavirus is generating a great deal of creative destruction, an evolutionary process evident here. One consequence, housing prices went up $78K in August alone!

    Must close–steers and lambs arrive this afternoon.

    1. I’m glad you are safe and well, John. I hope you and your loved ones stay that way. I wish the same for those who aren’t lucky enough to “live on a large comfortable yacht moored in an alfalfa field surrounded by rangelands.”

      Let’s hope we all make it through, and nobody becomes unglued. We’re about to find out soon.

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