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Coronavirus: Tips to cope with a pandemic in the winter months

Click to play video 'Coping with a pandemic as winter approaches' Coping with a pandemic as winter approaches
Global News’ Sarah Ryan spoke with a registered psychologist about how Canadians can keep their socialization and activity levels up amid COVID-19, even when the snow flies.

To date, Canadians haven’t had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic during the harshest winter months, when the cold and snow will have their own affects on physical distancing, and increase isolation.

Registered psychologist Dr. Ganz Ferrance said people should be planning now for what they’ll do to keep busy and safe once the temperature dips below zero.

“It’s been great in the summer, it’s been awesome. Get outside, get some fresh air, see some friends social distancing, but we do have to make plans for when the weather starts to change.”

He said the winter is a difficult time for many people in the first place — because of low light levels and things like Seasonal Affective Disorder — coronavirus will only add to those challenges.

READ MORE: Many Canadians dealing with mental health issues due to coronavirus: survey

Ferrance recommends outdoor activities like downhill skiing, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Other options include skating or tobogganing.

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And for those who may be more home-bound due to mobility issues, he says watching a nature documentary or sitting near a window are also good substitutes for being outside.

Ferrance said being in nature is soothing to both the mind and the body.

“Just to get that fresh air, that sunshine, whatever it is, seeing that the rest of the world still exists is much better than just giving in to being shut-in.”

And when it comes to maintaining socialization during the winter months, the psychologist says if physical distancing doesn’t allow for in-person interactions, video chats are the next best thing.

Click to play video 'Self-isolation dos and don’ts' Self-isolation dos and don’ts
Self-isolation dos and don’ts

“The best is face to face — being able to touch and feel and everything — the next level though, is this. Being able to see somebody and look in their eyes, see their facial expressions, their tone of voice,” he said. “Underneath that is phone.”

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Ferrance noted speaking over the phone is better than texting or emailing, because there’s more context around what a person is saying when you can hear their tone of voice.

READ MORE: 11 million Canadians could experience ‘high levels of stress’ due to COVID-19: Health Canada

He said it’s important to maintain connections with family and friends.

“When you have a good, healthy social support network — you’re connecting with people, you’re talking, you like being around folks you care about and care about you — it helps you to manage stress.

“It helps you to have the positive experiences physiologically and emotionally,” he said.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: WHO to hold global online advocacy event on mental health amid pandemic' Coronavirus: WHO to hold global online advocacy event on mental health amid pandemic
Coronavirus: WHO to hold global online advocacy event on mental health amid pandemic

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health urged people to continue to follow public health measures as fall and winter approach.

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“What we’re going to see this fall, I’ve said this before and remains true, really depends on how each of us takes the new normal guidance, the new normal public health measures indoors with us as we start to spend more time indoors,” she said.

“As other activities — for example family gathering where people did want to get together and were gathering outdoors — as that’s not possible once the weather does get colder and there’s snow on the ground, then I would really just recommend that people consider keeping gatherings indoors small, making sure that distancing is a part of the gathering, making sure that people are supported if they are feeling sick to not attend the gathering, making sure that there’s notes taken about who’s present so that if there is someone who happens to be infectious at that time without knowing it and then they’re later diagnosed, there can be very quick tracing of anyone who was there.”

She said what the province sees in terms of cases of COVID-19 will largely depend on the actions of Albertans.

“It’s possible we may see an increase in our cases this fall as we all move indoors, but that remains in our hands. The more we’re able to follow these public health measures, whether outdoors or indoors, the more we’ll be able to keep our numbers relatively flat,” Hinshaw said.

“What we’re going to see this fall, I’ve said this before and remains true, really depends on how each of us takes the new normal guidance, the new normal public health measures indoors with us as we start to spend more time indoors.

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“Our attempt is to flatten our curve, which means keeping our cases relatively stable over time, not overwhelming our system and protecting those who are most vulnerable to the severe impacts.”

Click to play video 'COVID-19 cases may increase through autumn, winter if Albertans don’t follow safety measures: Hinshaw' COVID-19 cases may increase through autumn, winter if Albertans don’t follow safety measures: Hinshaw
COVID-19 cases may increase through autumn, winter if Albertans don’t follow safety measures: Hinshaw

If you’re struggling with the new normal COVID-19 is presenting, you’re not alone.

“We all feel this because of the stresses we’re under. There’s nothing wrong with you that you feel this way and there is help available,” Ferrance said.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide PreventionDepression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868  all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

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With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News.