3 ways to take care of your mental wellness this winter

Edmonton may be a Winter City but there’s no getting around the fact that winter can be tough on our mental health. Factor in COVID-19 and all of the safety precautions (including staying inside more, seeing less of family and friends, and working from home) and this winter could see major mental challenges for many Edmontonians. Here are some ways you may boost your mental health, even on the darkest, chilliest days this winter.

Get In Tune with Nature

Is there anything as restorative as getting outside for fresh air, especially when the sun is out? If possible, try to get outside on your lunch break or carve out some time in the afternoon for a quick walk outside.

  • Take advantage of the gorgeous River Valley trails and walk, cross-country ski, or snowshoe your way into a better mood.
  • Take your furry friend for frequent walks during the day.
  • No pet? No problem. Volunteer at the Edmonton Humane Society or any animal rescue—there are always plenty of dogs who need exercise.
  • Speaking of exercise, it helps boost your mood. Take up a winter sport or adapt your usual routine to include some time outdoors. 
  • Hate the cold? Find a gym with floor-to-ceiling windows and spend your time on the treadmill soaking in all of the sunlight with none of the frozen breath.

Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Long winter days with early sunsets and bitter cold can result in a real struggle for many people. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is “a type of depression that’s related to changes in the season,” as per the Mayo Clinic. If you suspect you might have SAD, make an appointment with your physician so they can recommend a treatment plan or put you in touch with someone who can help. 

Main Symptoms of SAD:

  • Low energy
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes
  • Weight gain

Treatment Options:

  • Light therapy: light therapy lamps can be found at many major retailers and usually cost around $60-$90
  • Medication
  • Psychotherapy

Mental Health Assistance on a Budget

Private therapy or counselling can be very expensive. If you find yourself struggling, there are budget-friendly options for counselling.

  • Contact the Primary Care Network in your area. The Edmonton Oliver Primary Care Network offers virtual mental health courses and workshops for free.
  • The Boyle-McCauley Health Centre has two registered provisional Psychologists on staff to provide therapeutic support for individuals or families.
  • Edmonton’s Momentum Walk-In Clinic provides solution-focused counselling on a sliding-fee scale. It’s also ideal if you find yourself in need of immediate assistance. Call their 24-hr distress line at 780-482-HELP (4357).
  • Some psychologists will offer a reduced rate or a discount for post-secondary students (you may be matched with a Master’s level practicum student supervised by a senior level psychologist). Insight Psychological (www.insightpsychological.ca) offers sessions for a flat rate of $80, as well as a $25 rate for full-time post-secondary students. 

Your Core Staycation Bucket List

Although travel may be off the table right now, you still deserve a holiday this winter. Why not make a new winter tradition? Be a tourist in your own city with these staycation suggestions for the ultimate weekend getaway—all without having to step foot on a plane.

Shopping in a Winter Wonderland

Yes, you might feel a bit silly making a special effort to go shopping in your own city but no staycation is complete with at least one souvenir to remember it by. Whether you go for something locally-made at the indoor Downtown Farmers’ Market (10305 97 Street) or treat yourself to a new outfit or piece of art, whatever you purchase will act as a reminder of the incredibly fun weekend “getaway” you treated yourself to, and you will support local businesses in a time when they need it.

And To All a Good Night!

While it’s totally acceptable to staycation from your own home, there’s nothing like the luxury of knowing someone else is responsible for making your bed and cleaning the bathroom. Book into one of these posh downtown hotels for a decadent weekend. These picks range from reasonable to regal (you know you’ve always wanted to stay in a legit castle).

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

A staycation is your chance to try that restaurant you always wanted to, or to revisit an old favourite now that dining in is allowed again. If you’re not comfortable with eating indoors, make it a to-go picnic with charcuterie and wine from Cavern (10169 104 Street, Suite 2) or order take-out from any of these top-notch restaurants. For a fun staycation twist, consider trying a place with a cuisine you normally don’t eat, whether it be vegan food from Die Pie (10255 97 Street) or French cuisine from The Marc (9940 106 Street). Don’t forget a round of holiday cocktails while you’re at it.

Winter’s Play

One perk of a staycation is the chance to try new things and explore parts of your neighbourhood that you haven’t had time to visit before. Bundle up for a historical walking or biking tour in Oliver, take advantage of Edmonton’s fantastic museums or visit the brand-new Edmonton Public Library (7 Sir Winston Churchill Square). If relaxing is more your staycation style, there are several downtown spas that offer amazing day packages for premium pampering. Or, check off the cultural aspect of your trip by doing the Art Gallery Walk on 124th Street or blow off some steam in an escape room.