On any other given year, January and the winter months can be the most challenging for many people. We even have the 3rd Monday of January as “Blue Monday” as the most depressing time of the year due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights and the arrival of unpaid credit card bills. And this year comes with an even greater challenge to get out of a winter blue and Blue Monday as we are still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. For someone coping with limb loss, these times can bring about heightened isolation and sadness.
If you find yourself struggling with feelings of stress, anxiety, or sadness, below are some coping tips that could help you get through the winter months.
Keep your self-care habits in your daily routine
Even though it seems defeatist to get out of bed and get ready for a day and not go anywhere, it is an important practice to do to maintain mental health wellness. Get up at the same time as you usually do, get washed, get changed our of you pajamas and have your morning beverage. Even if you are just going to your living room, it is important to get get out of bed and focus on engage in something else in your home. Even if that involves watching a little TV, or listening to some music, reading on the couch, or doing some light housework. All of those things break up what could be a long day.
Continue eating healthy as much as possible especially if you have diabetes, or felt like you didn’t look after your nutrition over the holidays. It’s ok to fall off the wagon every now and then. But the commitment to get back on will be your key.
Do some exercises. Use what you learned during your rehab. A can of soup and a steady chair is all you’ll need to keep up with rehab exercises. Check out some of the “at home” exercises we recommended here.
And lastly, go to bed early and get some much needed sleep. Remember that our minds and our bodies recover during sleep. Getting a good night’s rest can certainly improve your morning.
Self care measures ensure that your health and well-being doesn’t result in stress that can bring about other health risks like cancer, diabetes, and mental health issues.
Connect with others
It may seem like that is not possible because of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, but technology has provided some great alternatives to connecting with friends, family, and peer support groups. Connecting with others can help you when you’re struggling with feelings of isolation or sadness during this time while keeping you physically distanced as well.
Make a point to call or video chat someone once per week. For all you know, your phone call or virtual call, and your voice is the one that helps them out of feeling isolated as well. If you belong to a peer support group, see if they have a Facebook group or chat group where you can interact with members of the group. Check to see if they have monthly virtual meetings in the meantime while meeting in groups are prohibited. The Amputee Coalition of Toronto offers both a private Facebook group for our members and a monthly virtual meeting. So make sure to check that out.
Acknowledge the feelings
If this is your first year experiencing limb loss and still dealing with the grief, acknowledge the feeling. Don’t force yourself to be happy or doing great things to appear that you have moved on from your experience. Even those of us who have had limb loss from years ago still experience some feelings of grief about the loss every now and then. It is okay to feel that. Acknowledge the feelings to move through the emotions and allow yourself to feel the sadness, anger and frustration. Work through them through self-care. It is part of the healing process.
Journal and plan ahead
Having a strategy for the next day has proven by many to be a good way to beat the winter blues. You don’t have to have a journal (if you’re not the journal type) to write down what you want to do the next day. Take a post-it or a piece of paper and write down what you want to do the next day. This provides focus and eliminate some of the guessing games for yourself when you get up in the morning. This also eliminates some of the frustrating things that we come across or things that can overwhelm us especially when the next day involves an appointment with a clinic or a doctor. Plan your day the night before. If you need to order a ride share or public transport for an appointment, write it down including the time when you need to book it. Putting things like that on paper removes stresses that can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
It is very easy to go down in the dumps, as they say, in these winter months. It’s not just amputees who experience them. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is very common for everyone, but it is heightened by experiences such as limb loss or other health issues, or the pandemic. However, there are ways that we can cope with it. The key is to get a head of it and recognize if you are experiencing the winter blues. Speak to a support worker, a friend, or a family member to ask for assistance to get you the help you need. There is no shame in asking for help.
For more information on mental health, programs and services, connect with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
If you or someone you know has suicide-related concerns, please call the Canada Suicide Prevention Helpline, 1-833-456-4566.