Staying Mentally Healthy During the Winter

As daylight hours get shorter, it’s so important to check in with ourselves and our loved ones to see how things are going and to make sure we are using good coping skills to support our mental health   

  • For some this can mean getting back to good habits like getting enough sleep, being more active and eating well or developing new habits such as mindfulness to add to your coping tool kit. For others, this can mean checking in with the many supports and professionals we have in town to talk about our mental health and ways to manage through these challenges.   

The Counselling Connect service in Ottawa offers free access to a same-day or next-day phone or video counselling sessions.

The Walk-in Counselling Clinic at 613 755 2277 offers free in person sessions as well as video or phone counselling sessions in English, French, Arabic, Spanish, Somali, Cantonese and Mandarin at a variety of different locations.

If you need support please call the Distress Centre Ottawa and Region 24/7 - 613-238-3311 in English or Tel-Aide Outaouais - 613-741-6433 in French.

Protecting Your Mental Health: Staying safe while staying social! 

We know that one of the best ways we can protect our mental health is to stay connected.  However, we also know that part of being social is having fun!  Here are some creative ways to be together, have fun and stay safe!

 Staying safe while staying social!

Protecting Your Mental Health: Staying safe while staying social!

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COVID-19 has presented many challenges for us as a community. We know that the safest actions for each of us to take is to stay apart. Staying apart doesn’t mean that we can’t spend time with our family and friends. We simply have to be creative and find different ways to have fun together!
We know that one of the best ways we can protect our mental health is to stay connected. However, we also know that part of being social is having fun! Here are some creative ways to be together, have fun and stay safe!

1. Gather with your loved ones, virtually!
Connect with family and friends through the phone, texting, video chats and social media. Digital tools like Skype, Google Hangout, and Facetime are a just a few of the online platforms that allow us to have face-to-face conversations while maintaining physical distancing. If you miss connecting with your family through meals or watching television together, you can still do that. Set up a time to connect over video chat, and have taco Tuesday together, or share a laugh over episodes of Schitt’s Creek.
2. Games night anyone?

If you are missing games night, play online. Get a group of friends together through video chat and play your favourite board game together! Challenge your best friend and see if you can sink their battleship or get the group back together for the board game Codenames! The creators of Codenames have adapted it so it can be played online! Being at home does not mean being alone.

3. Use technology to have a date night.
Even though we can’t go out and do the things we used to do, there are still fun ways to connect with our loved ones. Check out this list from the Royal with many different fun and creative things to do. You and your loved one can take a tour of the Palace of Versailles, or visit a famous national park, or watch an interesting TED talk and discuss.
4. How about a girl’s night in!

Do you miss your book club or paint nights out with your friends? There is no need! Get together on an online platform that works for you and do something you all enjoy! Discuss the latest book you are reading or check out some of the fun and simple painting tutorials available online. Check out this playlist of painting tutorials for beginners to get you started.

5. Get a Pen Pal!
Many of the ways we recommend staying connected involve technology. But sometimes it can be the simplest forms of communication that can have the most meaning. Remember being a child and being so excited when you got a letter or a card in the mail? Why not give that feeling to one of your loved ones? Write them a letter or send a card or care package. It might just be the start of a new tradition.
Please remember that if you are feeling ill, do not prepare and send care packages. For a list of COVID-19 symptoms, go to

6. Remember, it’s okay to not be okay. 

This is a very unusual time and it is normal to find it challenging. You are not alone. There are people who can help. If you need support please call the Distress Centre Ottawa and Region 24/7 - 613-238-3311 in English or Tel-Aide Outaouais - 613-741-6433 in French.

Counselling Connect provides free access to a same-day or next-day phone or video counselling session. This service is for children, youth, adults and families in Ottawa and the surrounding area. There is no waiting list.

The Walk-in Counselling Clinic at 613 755 2277 offers free in person sessions as well as video or phone counselling sessions in English, French, Arabic, Spanish, Somali, Cantonese and Mandarin at a variety of different locations.
For more support and information visit

For even more ideas on how to stay Social Wise during the pandemic, please visit Ottawa Public Health’s website.

You are not alone. We are all in this together!

What is mindfulness and how can mindfulness help you stay mentally well? 

Mindfulness is bringing our awareness to what we are doing when we are doing it. It is focusing on our present actions, feelings, physical sensations and thoughts. Mindfulness can decrease our stress level, boost our mood and improve our sleep.    

10 Ways to be More Mindful 

  • Visualization Exercises Practice visualizing a setting you find relaxing like walking through a forest or lying on a beach.  

  • Mandala colouring: This is detailed colouring that allows you to focus on one thing, and let other thoughts go. 

  • Mindful Breathing: Be still and focus on your breath for just one minute, slowly breathing in and out. Focus on the path of the air as it enters your body, fills your lungs and then leaves your body. 

  • Mindful Observation: Choose a natural object from your surroundings and focus on watching it for a minute or two. It could be a flower or an insect, or even the clouds or the moon.  Look at it as if you are seeing it for the first time.    

  • Mindful Awareness: Be aware of simple daily tasks.  For example:  The moment you open your computer to start work, take a moment to think about your hands and then your brain that help you to use the computer.  When going through your daily activities, take a moment to stop and be aware of what you are doing and the good it brings your life. 

  • Mindful Listening: Select a piece of music you have never heard before.  Let yourself get lost in the sound. Even if you don’t like the music at first, let go of your dislike and give it your full attention. 

  • Mindful Appreciation: Notice 5 things in your day that you don’t usually pay attention to. These can be objects or people. Write them down and think about what good they bring to your life.   

  • Walking Mindfulness: As you begin walking, put your weight on the left leg and begin to lift your right foot up. Move it forward and place it back down on the ground. Now put your weight to the right leg and begin to lift the left foot up, move it forward and place it back down on the ground.  Continue walking slowly and pay attention to how the bottom of your feet and legs feel.  Keep walking slowly, one step at a time. 

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What are some ways to adapt to shorter daylight hours?  

  • Pick up an old hobby you forgot about or try a new one such as reading, drawing, painting, sewing, etc. 

  • Plan an activity you can look forward to such as:  a call with family every week, a virtual coffee date with a friend, a physically distanced snowshoe, ski, or walk with a neighbor, or a virtual game night with friends. 

  • Exercise regularly. Ask a member of your household to be your exercise partner or one of your essential supports if you live alone.  

  • Get outdoors and get as much natural sunlight as you can. 

  • Talk to your doctor to see what coping strategies are best for you (e.g. medication, vitamins, light therapy). 

  • Check out your workplace’s employee assistance program to see if supports are available through your workplace. 

  • If you do not have access to an employee assistance program know that there are lots of other resources available.   

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Getting enough sleep helps us feel better. 

  • If you use alcohol, follow Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. 

  • Listen to your favourite music/make a pick-me-up playlist with your favorite songs. 

  • Let in the natural light. 

  • Get outside as much as possible. 

  • Have candlelight dinners. 

  • Soak in a bath with scents or bubbles. 

  • Enjoy hot soups or hot drinks or make your favourite winter meal. 

  • Talk to someone when you are not able to cope in a healthy way on your own. 

  • Check in on others – it may not be obvious when they are having challenges. 

Some people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the winter. What is this and what can I do to prevent this? 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is characterized by low mood and energy and can have a real impact on our appetite, sleep, and concentration, and enjoyment of life. 

SAD is “situational sadness.” It’s in response to something – and it’s temporary. During these times it’s helpful to focus on the basics: eating well-balanced meals, sleeping well, and exercising (including getting outside if you can). And if you need support, there are many useful resources in Ottawa to help you.   

What is the difference between SAD and Depression? 

There’s a difference between sadness, which is a normal part of a spectrum of emotion, and clinical depression. 

Depression is not “feeling blue,” it’s a complex illness that is not to be taken lightly. 

If symptoms like sadness, loss of energy, loss of interest in things, and difficulty concentrating linger and prevent you from functioning as you normally would, it’s a good idea to seek professional help.  And if you know someone who seems to be having these feelings, reach out and ask how they are doing. 

Most importantly, remember that whether you are experiencing a situational sadness or feelings that last for longer you can reach out for help or talk to your health care professional. 

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