GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — We're no strangers to harsh winters here in Minnesota, but the winter that approaches will be, without a doubt, different.
So with that in mind, we reached out to people who truly know how to hunker down for some advice on how to get through this COVID winter together.
“I try and think of what I've learned on the expeditions,” says Polar Explorer Ann Bancroft.
“We can let this bitter us or better us, right?" says Alaskan Travel Blogger and mom, Erin Kirkland.
Slugging it out on those cold dark days ain't easy, but both women have excellent advice, and it starts with one solid foundation.
“Don't let yourself be overwhelmed by something we cannot control,” says Kirkland.
“Shift your attitude for the things you cannot control and control the things that you can,” suggests Bancroft.
There's a truth bomb for you: We can't control any of this. All we can do is try to make it more palatable. And both Bancroft and Kirkland agree, you may not necessarily be a winter person but you're going to need to get your butt outside.
“Bundle up and go out. There is something so magical when you decide to engage,” Bancroft says. “Try and embrace that 12-year-old kid, you know, eyes wide open, because they don't care, they'll go out with no socks if you give them a choice."
“Even if you get out for 20 minutes, all the studies show that your heart rate goes down, your concentration is better, kids sleep better,” explains Kirkland. "Darkness hits December, January very early in the day, like around 3 or 4 p.m., so that stretch of time between dinner and bed time seems endless sometimes. So, we would go outside, throw them in the sled and go around the block.”
While you're at it, try something new. Build a snowman, build a snow cave, feed the birds, ski your neighborhood at night, try a fat-tire bike, build a fire, light some candles, play some board games, get to know your neighbors... you know, from a distance.
"We started doing bonfires in our driveway, just so everybody can socially distance and wave and just check in on each other," Kirkland says.
And look, not everyone has the ability to get outside, but it doesn't mean you can't keep moving.
“I feel like movement is the really important thing, and you can do that in lots of ways,” says Bancroft. “Movement for me, lifts my mood, makes me feel more confident, makes me feel more creative.”
And yes, you're sick of technology, but you'll need to embrace that too.
Not only to connect, but to check in on the ones we love who might be alone. Get creative. No one says you just have to talk.
“And so somebody in the family, it could be one of the young adult grandchildren, or one of us, or my mom, reads a short story or a poem or something they've written, and we discuss it on Sunday because just getting together on Zoom was getting boring,” says Bancroft.
Ann also says on her long, cold expeditions humor helped. Laughter makes everything lighter, so don't forget to pack your funny pants! Let this be the year you learn to love winter. And hold on tight. We will get to the other side, with each other.
One other tip from Erin; we might not be able to travel, but it doesn't mean you can't go somewhere warm. For example, the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory is open every day from 10 to 4, you just need to make a reservation.