December 1, 2020
Hallmarks of Winters Past
Besides the issues pertinent to 2020, winter has always had a whole host of issues despite the year. According to the Mayo Clinic, both rapid changes in weather and cold weather can cause blood vessels to narrow leading to higher blood pressure. Blood pressure is also increased when physical activity is decreased, as happens with many people when it gets too cold for a walk.
Because of the decreased humidity of winter air, skin can also dry out and lips are much more likely to get chapped. According to the American Lung Association, once inside the body, cold dry air can irritate the lungs. This lowered humidity can also make the skin more prone to breakouts, says Dr. Jacob Steiger.
Winter is also infamous for its effect on mental health, most predominantly in the form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. While the specific cause(s) of SAD is up in the air, the onset of winter is often clearly associated with the onset of SAD. Psychology Today reports that ten million people are affected by SAD and that another ten to twenty percent may have mild SAD. If you experience the “winter blues,” but haven’t looked into SAD, it may be helpful to look deeper into it or to talk to a therapist about these feelings. Some of the symptoms listed in the DSM-5 include weight gain, a change in appetite, a drop in energy level and fatigue, among other things.
What Makes this Winter Different
This winter is going to be the hardest one in a long time. Since quarantining in March, you may have already experienced cabin fever a few times, even in the summer. Well, this winter it is going to be more important than ever that people remain at their homes alone or with the other people they live with. As we have seen in coverage of COVID-19, it is in its third and largest upswing in numbers. As we get deeper into winter, however, that number could keep rising.
For the same reason that there is a flu season, there is most likely going to be a worsening of the coronavirus pandemic. In an article from Medical News Today, Dr. Yella Hewings-Martin explains that cold air decreases mucus clearance, which is the self-cleaning mechanism of the respiratory system. Central heating also lowers mucus clearance, because it lowers humidity.
As was pointed out by Andrew Noymer, a professor of public health at UC Irvine, in The Atlantic, the flu reduces the amount of beds hospitals have available. This, of course, wouldn’t be a problem at any other time but since viruses usually peak in the winter, hospitals may have to make dire decisions about who to admit. David Vlahoh, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Nursing, adds on to this by bringing up that both COVID-19 and the flu affect the respiratory system. This means having one makes the other more dangerous and because they share symptoms, diagnosis is made that much harder.
What will perhaps be the most obvious mark of the times and the one that will inevitably affect many peoples’ familial and religious traditions is the effect of COVID-19 on the holiday season. Due to social distancing measures, many people may have to outright cancel their typical holiday plans or move them online. Members of the Jewish community have already dealt with this issue when Rabbi’s moved their services online and families took to Zoom to celebrate the High Holidays in Sept.
Besides the coronavirus pandemic, is the question of what will happen after the election and before Jan. 20th, Inauguration Day? With one half of the country unwilling to accept the nomination of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the President-Elect of the United States, there is at least one silver lining in the fact that families aren’t going to have to sit at the table and do the work of election officials. Nonetheless, it is going to be a troubling time for Democrats and Republicans alike.
How to get to pring
This is going to be a long and deadly winter, but you have to look out for yourself before anyone else, so here are some tips to get you through it.
For your body:
-Get a flu shot
-Keep chapstick and moisturizer on deck
-Buy a humidifier or keep a bowl of water by your heater
-Make an at-home workout plan that is accommodating to you
-Dust and clean often, because without fresh air your allergies could flare up more
-Wear a mask
For your soul:
-Buy a light therapy lamp (though beware of eyestrain)
-Zoom with your friends and play games together like skribbl.io or Among Us
While it’s harder than ever to see each other this winter, it is also more important than ever to remain connected and to look out for each other. It’s easy to get isolated and there’s no telling when that last goodbye is going to be.
Jarett Greenstein is a junior double majoring in professional and public writing as well as English with a concentration in creative writing. He is currently the Assistant Managing Editor at the Red Cedar Review and you can find him on Twitter @JarettWrites.