Home Health Tips Mental Health: Tips for Surviving Minnesota's Cold, Dark Months – Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

Mental Health: Tips for Surviving Minnesota's Cold, Dark Months – Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

9 min read

This feature was written by Studio MSP writers. While some of our advertisers were sourced, no advertiser paid to be included.

When COVID-19 entered the U.S. this past spring, many of us assumed that our efforts would be like one big sprint. We’d get through this in time for family barbecues during the summer. But summer passed, and as we entered the colder months of fall, we discovered that “this is a marathon,” says PrairieCare’s director of psychotherapeutics, Dr. Anastasia Ristau, PhD, LP. “So we need to pace ourselves. We need to be thoughtful about things so that we can get through this.”

In an effort to overcome those mental blocks, here are a few tips from Dr. Ristau to help us hurtle through winter and past that finish line.


For the majority of us who have been working from home for the past near-year, our typical get-ready routines have changed. While it’s okay to skip a workout or wear the same pair of sweatpants a few days in a row, if you’ve gotten to the point of not showering or cleaning on the regular, it might be time to start making some changes.

Putting yourself through the motions of a normal, pre-COVID routine can have a positive impact on your mindset, Dr. Ristau says. You can start small, like making your bed one morning.

“Do that for a couple of days, and that kind of builds a little bit of momentum,” she says. Putting yourself through the motions of going to bed at the same time every day or avowing to drink more water can have a really positive effect, she says.

THE 15-30-60 RULE

During times of high stress, find time to spend 15 minutes in quietness every day. “I often recommend that we focus on someone or something that we feel grateful for or someone who makes you feel loved or appreciated,” Dr. Ristau says.

Later, carve out time for 30 minutes of heart-pumping exercise and 60 minutes of doing something that brings you joy. They don’t need to be all at once. Slipping in a jog around the neighborhood or a catch-up Zoom call can be a real boon to your mental health.


When your office is your home and your home is your office, it can be difficult to separate the two mentally—and that can make it difficult to fully recharge during off-times. One way to counteract this, according to Dr. Ristau, is to set boundaries for your space and time.

“If you can have a workstation that is set up separate so it’s in a room where you can close a door, that is helpful just mentally,” she says. “So when you’re walking by there, you’re not getting that pull to just sit down and check one more quick email.”

Don’t forget to give yourself permission to pause, stretch, and walk around, she adds.

“That’s actually going to help you be more productive and get more done during the time when you’re working.”

“This is a marathon. So we need to pace ourselves. We need to be thoughtful about things so that we can get through this.”

—Dr. Anastasia Ristau, PrairieCare


We have a lot more time to ourselves than we’ve ever had without our daily commutes, normal dinners out, and seeing friends on the regular.

Dr. Ristau recommends thinking about things you want to get better at, things you want to learn more about, or things you want to connect with someone else over. Once you have your list, reach out to others, whether it’s through text, a phone call, or even a social media post.

“It’s a really interesting way to start feeling engaged in the world without having to physically go out,” Dr. Ristau says. “It just feels incredibly vulnerable to put yourself out there that way and be the one that starts the authenticity by reaching out and saying … ‘Let’s get this time to pass and make it meaningful and memorable.’”


It’s okay not to have a quarantine glow-up, but it’s not okay to beat yourself up over it. There isn’t a “right” way to spend your time during the pandemic.

Dr. Ristau says it’s helpful to remember that we’re all united in this challenge, more than we ever have been united before. So, treat yourself kindly.

“If we wouldn’t say it to a friend, why is it okay to say it to ourselves in our head?” Dr. Ristau says. “It’s more about small movements and making small changes rather than expecting ourselves to just, like, all of a sudden be a totally different person.”

She continues. “This is something that we’re going to remember probably for the rest of our lives. And hopefully, there will be some positive nuggets that are going to come from it.”

Read more from our Annual Health Guide in the November issue of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine or here

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