I have written before about the importance of parents taking good care of themselves so they can take good care of their young children. Never has this been so important. Winter—the cold, dark, and snowy kind—really is coming.

The problem this year is we have the additional pain of not being able to go about business as usual. The typical playgroups and get-togethers with friends around the woodstove to sip a cozy cup of tea won’t be happening as much (if at all). As COVID fatigue sets in and winter approaches, we’re all going to need to know what to do.

Here are a handful of ideas for keeping your eye on the prize of excellent self-care, which will be needed in the coming season in high doses, perhaps along with your daily Vitamin D. (I’m not a doctor, but my understanding is that everyone in our latitude is deficient.)

  • Figure out what’s important—for YOU. Everyone’s needs for getting through a tough winter during a global pandemic will be different. Sit down and write a list of things that will fill your emotional cup and strengthen your bandwidth.
  • Make a plan. One of the things that is making this time so tough on everyone is the feeling that you cannot plan anything more than 24 hours in advance because what if something happens and plans need to change? That is OK. If you need to take a daily walk or a weekly online class, make a plan. If you need to find a family with similar risk tolerance to bubble with, make a plan for that. If the plan needs to change at some point, that is OK. Go ahead and give yourself something to look forward to. Maybe it will work out.
  • Assess your need for light. In addition to that Vitamin D, some people just need more light. You can find personal lightboxes and even visors to wear on your head to get more light exposure. Check with your primary care provider about options.
  • Find a way to get outside. My friend Penny recently reminded me of the Scandinavian saying, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” I am planning to “gear up” so we can force ourselves outside on a more regular basis. Even a little midday exposure to our weak, northern sun here in Maine is better than none. Plus, I hear getting out in nature can have an antidepressant effect.
  • Get cozy. Get EXTRA cozy. No one will begrudge if you put up your sparkly holiday decorations and twinkle lights early this year. Bring on the hygge—the Danish word for cozy, they know how to do winter right up there. Bust out your candles (lit away from little hands) and books about snow and winter.
  • Reach out for support. We were never meant to parent in isolation, especially the increased isolation this pandemic has brought. Even if your personal circumstances don’t allow for any in-person socialization, reach for your neighbors and friends. Pick up the phone or set up that dreaded Zoom. Put on a mask and warm clothes and walk around your neighborhood. You can still look into another human’s eyes and have a conversation from six feet away.

It might take extra effort to see our way through this next season. Plan to take care of yourself now, so it’s more likely to happen. Do it not only for yourself, but for your children too—because as I said, your level of self-care affects your ability to be a steady guide for them each and every day.

Sarah MacLaughlin is author of the award-winning book, What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children and has been featured in The Huffington Post. She’s writing new book Raising Humans With Heart: Not A How-To Manual. A human development nerd, she brings over 25 years of experience working with children and families to her coaching practice. Sarah is also mom to a tweenager who gives her plenty of opportunities to take her own advice.

This article was originally published in the November/December 2020 issue of Parent & Family.