If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression related to the changes of seasons, trying to manage it along with the life changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic may feel overwhelming.
Pandemic restrictions and the need to guard physical health mean that you can’t engage in some activities that could help lift your SAD symptoms. You may be feeling frustrated and confused right now in this deepest part of winter when the days are the shortest.
Living with SAD is hard enough, but adding the pandemic’s isolation is only making it harder. Here are some suggestions to help you cope.
Seek Professional Help
The pandemic itself has led to a tremendous increase in the number of individuals experiencing depression and anxiety. Therapists are aware of this dynamic and have adapted by pivoting to offer teletherapy, and some are still meeting in person. Some insurance companies are even waiving co-pays for teletherapy appointments during this time.
If you’re feeling overburdened by SAD and isolation, make the vital step of reaching out for care. A physical examination is often recommended; sometimes, adding medication to a therapy regimen is a helpful option.
And if you’re wondering if therapy via video chat or phone is as effective as in-person, you’ll be happy to know that it is! Many studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of teletherapy.
Let the Light Shine
If you’ve dealt with SAD before, you probably know that increasing your exposure to light is an essential treatment. Try to be outside as much as you can in the limited daylight.
Also, research full-spectrum indoor light options to include in your regimen. (Asking for a health provider’s guidance on frequency and length of use is often a good approach). Consider adding Vitamin D3, the sunlight vitamin to your morning routine.
More Coping Strategies
Many of the coping strategies suggested for getting through pandemic isolation are the same ones recommended for treating depression (SAD is a type of depression). The following tips will help you address both issues at the same time.
While socializing virtually may not be quite as fun as in-person, it still offers emotional benefits. Spending time with others boosts our mood and helps us feel connected. You may not feel up to video chats. But it’s essential to reach out even if you don’t want to. Start with texts. Arrange phone dates with friends and family. Walk-talks with friends is a great way to get some sun and also connect.
And, if you have a “COVID-19 pod” of friends and family to interact with in-person, even better.
When you’re feeling depressed, exercise often seems impossible. After all, you barely want to leave the comfort of the sofa. But even ten minutes of vigorous housework or a walk can improve your mood. It also increases your oxygen and blood flow, which will help up your energy level. And countless workout video options are available for free online, from basics to advanced.
Researchers have found that even a few minutes of daily mindfulness meditation has a positive effect on mood. You can start just by sitting quietly and paying attention to your breathing and the sounds and sensations around you. If you’re comfortable doing so, take deeper, slower breaths. This small step helps you center yourself and feel calmer. With regular practice, you’ll look forward to these few quiet moments and experience their effectiveness.
Sweets, comfort food, caffeine, and alcohol can be hard to resist, even when you’re not depressed. If you suffer from SAD, their appeal may be even greater. But our bodies thrive with good, supportive nutrition. We need plenty of vitamins and minerals. While we can take supplements, we can’t rely on them to replace eating real, healthy food. Again, take baby steps if you need to.
It’s a hard time for everyone. If you continue to struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder and isolation and stress brought on by the pandemic, please reach out for help. It is possible to get through this.