This winter many people will experience a double whammy of seasonal depression exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. With millions of Americans still out of work and grappling with extended time isolated from others and canceled holiday plans, mental health professionals expect not only to see a rise in seasonal depression but a heightened severity of symptoms.
Many people already struggle with seasonal depression most commonly starting in the fall or winter and resolving in the springtime. Various factors including less sunlight exposure during the winter months are thought to contribute to seasonal depression.
Couple that with a prolonged pandemic and it’s a recipe for higher stress levels and lower mood. It’s important to recognize the signs of seasonal depression and seek treatment from a mental health professional.
Signs and symptoms of seasonal depression
More than just the winter blues, seasonal depression is a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern, occurring at the same time of the year. It affects adults as well as adolescents, and even children.
Signs of SAD include:
- Social withdrawal
- Feeling depressed
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Feeling hopeless
- Difficulty concentrating
- Thoughts of suicide
- Sleeping more than usual
- Feeling tired
- Gaining weight
There are things you can do to improve your mood and combat seasonal depression amid the pandemic.
Maintain social connections
When seasonal depression strikes, the urge to “hibernate” is often strong. Maintaining social connections during the fall and winter months eases depression and boosts mental health. While social distancing mandates make it challenging to spend in-person time with friends and loved ones it is possible to strengthen bonds with your social connections and boost your mental health.
Taking advantage of video chatting, text messaging, and phone calls is the next best thing when dealing with mandatory social distancing orders amid the pandemic. Many mobile applications have added additional features to keep people connected amid the pandemic, such as viewing parties. This allows you to watch videos together with people in real-time.
Try light therapy
Light therapy involves using a box that emits bright light similar to what the sun emits just after sunrise. This home-based treatment is useful for preventing and treating seasonal depression. The idea is to replace the light exposure you lose during the fall and winter months.
For light therapy to work, you must use a lightbox that emits light at a tested level of effectiveness – roughly 10,000 lux of light. Treatment requires sitting near the light for 20-60 minutes a day.
Partner with a mental health professional
The expertise of a mental health professional is invaluable for anyone navigating seasonal depression during the pandemic and beyond. Online and phone therapy sessions offer a way to stay connected with your mental health provider from the safety of your home or office.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) tailored for seasonal depression is an effective treatment approach that improves mood and wellbeing. The effects are shown to last for two winters. CBT helps you identify and change negative thoughts about yourself and your environment and replace them with positive thoughts.
Your therapist helps you identify activities that you find enjoyable to help you cope with the winter. Changing your beliefs and attitudes and engaging in pleasurable activities eases seasonal depression.
At Wellness Road Psychology our team works together with you to improve the way you feel and function. We can help you tackle seasonal depression and feel good again. Contact our team to schedule an appointment with psychologist Dr. Philip Glickman, Jamie Karia, LCSW, or Vivian Martinez, LMHC. We have offices in NYC and Dobbs Ferry. You can book your request online also.