Preparing for Another COVID-19 Winter

Thu, 10/07/2021 – 10:47

By Emily Skehill, Manager of Public Education and Awareness at Mental Health America

If saying goodbye to this summer was harder for you than most years, you aren’t alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way many of us perceive time – this October really snuck up on me, and I still feel like I’ve barely processed last March. 

A few weeks ago, I noticed myself feeling a bit more anxious than usual most days. I was quick to get overwhelmed when people asked me to make plans, and I constantly felt like time was moving too fast for me to catch up mentally. It was obvious that I was feeling little “off,” but I had no idea why – nothing about my life had changed, and I’d been in a pretty good spot with my mental health. 

All of COVID-19 has been a sustained trauma – we’ve been through a lot over the last year and a half, and some of that built-up stress may be starting to surface now as we prepare to enter the end of 2021. 


We’ve done this whole “COVID winter” thing before, and to a much stricter degree than will probably be necessary this winter – so why do the next few months still seem so intimidating? 

Part of it is because we got our hopes up; we had a taste of freedom with summer 2021 and were promised that the pandemic was almost over – except now it’s not. When we came out of our first COVID-winter and entered the spring of 2021, we knew there was still a long way to go with vaccinations and slowing the spread, but it seemed like it would be under control by the fall. We were able to enjoy plenty of outdoor activities and socialization – things weren’t “back to normal,” but it felt like we were getting closer, and many of us clung to the idea that by the time summer was over, we’d be able to ditch masks and social distancing for good. 

Now, as the days are cooler and it’s getting darker earlier, there will be fewer and fewer outdoor events to attend and it’s not as easy to round up your friends for a weekday evening on the patio. This seasonal transition can be daunting even in the best of times and may feel especially intense this winter – you aren’t the only one struggling to accept the changing weather and what it might mean for your quality of life. 


While the vaccine rollout has helped alleviate fear for many in terms of physical health, a number of populations, including children and immunocompromised folks, remain at high risk. We don’t know what variants may crop up, how they’ll impact people, or how they’ll respond to the vaccine or medical intervention. No one is expecting this winter to be as bad as last year’s, but we do know that it’s no joke – physical safety is still something that we have to pay close attention to. On top of COVID concerns, it’s also the beginning of flu season (ugh).

This leaves us with even more questions – will I be able to spend time with my friends inside? Will there be another shutdown or full quarantine? When will the pandemic finally be behind us? 


Anniversaries impact us, often subconsciously – experiencing the same time of year can bring back a lot of feelings. Within the COVID pandemic, there are a few noteworthy anniversaries. We all remember March 2020, when the pandemic first hit. You may not be thinking about the fall of 2020 as an anniversary, but this time last year, we were all gearing up for our first COVID winter – we had experienced most businesses being shut down, but we had yet to experience that during colder weather when outdoor socialization isn’t as much of an option. 

Just because there’s no specific start or end date to 2020’s trauma of shifting from a COVID summer to a COVID winter doesn’t mean you can’t feel those same unpleasant feelings again. The familiarity of the temperature, smells, fall activities, and so many other annual markers can trigger memories of how difficult this time was in 2020. 


Identify your feelings. When we’re caught up in big emotions, it’s difficult to feel anything other than completely overwhelmed. Start with figuring out what specific feelings are bubbling up inside of you – from there, you can work on coping with them. 

Share your feelings with someone else. We collectively faced the initial traumas of COVID-19, but re-traumatization and struggles to adapt are happening more individually. It’s easy to feel alone in this, but remember that we’re all moving forward from similar experiences – more people than you expect may be able to relate. Make a pact with a friend to check in on each other every so often.

Allow yourself to be realistically positive. This is still a scary time and unpleasant feelings may have surfaced, but we’ve been able to process some of that already. Some healing has already been done – you already have the skills to get through this winter. 

Remind yourself of the progress we have made. Feelings of anxiety are still valid, but try to remind yourself that even if things feel the same as last year, they aren’t – now, we have multiple vaccines, plans in place in case of a shutdown, and safety standards that we’re already accustomed to. 

Spend time outside. Losing out on natural light plays a big role in the “winter blues.” Try to get outside as much as you can (even though it may not be as pleasant in the cold) or rearrange your living space so that you’re spending more time in the sunlight. You can also start taking vitamin D supplements or purchase special kinds of lamps to help boost your mood. 

Make a disaster/crisis plan. The best time to create a safety plan is well before you need it – organize your thoughts so that you know what signs to look out for with your own mental health and think ahead about what helps during challenging times. That way, if it does get bad again, you’re prepared to handle it. 

Take a screen for depression. If you find yourself struggling beyond this initial transition period or if it’s interrupting your life, take a depression screen. If a certain time of year always impacts you – COVID aside – consider if you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).


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The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will house a “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center, that will provide case management, mental health community advocacy, and oversight from the M.I. Mother’s Keeper mental health advocates. 
The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will offer patrons access to immediate coverage by general surgeons as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
Our goal is to help people in the best way possible in an effort to preserve and to save more lives in the Nation’s Capital and beyond.

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At Capital City Emergency Trauma & Wellness Center patrons with mental health emergencies that include life threatening situations in which an individual is imminently threatening harm to self or others, severely disoriented or out of touch with reality, has a severe inability to function or is otherwise distraught and out of control, will have access to quality and psychiatric emergency services and referrals.

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Whether your life threatening medical emergency involves excessive or uncontrollable bleeding, head injury. difficulty with breathing, severe pain, heart attack, vision impairments, stroke, physically collapsing, or seizure related, rest assured that our professionals will properly assess and evaluate the level of response that will be most needed to help provide stabilized care solutions and minimize complications as well as reduce early mortality.

Holistic Healthcare

We offer healthcare solutions that will support the whole person which includes their physical, psychological, emotional, social, & spiritual wellbeing. Research supports that because your mental state can affect your overall health we support and offer the inclusion of complimentary and alternative medicine(CAM) practitioners and naturopathic doctor recommendations and referrals as a part of our Outreach Community Resource Center’s care regimen and support.


Emergency care can typically result in traumatic injuries for which rehabilitation becomes an essential component of care in trying to achieve the best long-term outcomes for the patient. In addition to speeding up recovery times and helping to prevent further complications, rehabilitative care also helps to support a patient’s self-managed recovery once discharged from our facility. Our Outreach Community Resource Center works closely with our trauma center’s discharge department to assure that patrons requiring these services are linked with qualified professionals who will be accountable to the standard of care required to help the patron be successful in their recovery.

Social Services

Our “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center intends to promote “expansive” beneficial community enriching services, programs, case management, & linkage to “approved” partner resources and supports in all of the following intended areas and more:

Social Services

  • Clothing
  • Food Pantry
  • Housing/Shelter
  • I.D. Credentials
  • Senior Wellness Check
  • Toiletries
  • Transportation
  • Etc.

Extended Family Services

  • Child Care
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Career Training

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Return Citizen
Program Partner
(Bridging the Gap)

  • Case Management
  • Temporary Boarding/Housing
  • Transitional Program Registration

Prevention/Intervention Outreach,
Workshops, & Programs

  • After-school Behavioral Health Program
  • Civic Engagement / Volunteer Sign-up
  • Fatherhood Rites of Passage
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  • Marriage Counseling Workshops
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Nutritional Outreach

  • Cooking Demonstrations
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Community Outreach

The Healthy DC & Me Leadership Coalition is partnering with the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health advocacy organization to provide outreach services on the community level as an aid in reducing the existent health inequities that many District citizens are facing as a direct result of the presence of debilitating social determinants and the lack of culturally appropriate care choices and realities for community members residing in marginalized and lower-income communities.

It is the vision and intentions of the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health Advocates organization to help improve the quality of living for citizens living in our Nation’s Capital and beyond by overseeing the delicate linkage to services and by maintaining higher standards of care accountability for deserving citizens of the Nation’s Capital.

For more information or to enroll as one of our service providers, please email us at: