When ‘Safer at Home’ orders were in effect when COVID-19 first became widespread in the United States, we were approaching the Spring Solstice. While we still had winter weather among some regions, our daylight hours were getting longer. As the cases of COVID-19 are increasing, our daylight hours are unfortunately decreasing.
Now is the time to start checking in with family and friends to make sure they are doing well mentally. We have all heard of the “winter blues” which are very common. The colder, darker days of winter bring on mood changes, lethargy and the feeling of unhappiness. However, while feeling down, the winter blues shouldn’t affect your overall ability to enjoy life. If the blues start affecting your life – where you are seeing a change in professional and personal relationships, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a subtype of depression. Symptoms may include feeling depressed most of the day, sometimes all day, every day, feeling worthless, experiencing low energy, sleep problems and having difficulties concentrating. Causes of SAD are unknown, but factors include your biological clock (circadian rhythm) – reduced sunlight, serotonin levels, and melatonin levels. SAD is very common with over 3 million cases per year.
Now we add in COVID-19 lockdown and ‘Safer at Home’ orders, parents and children doing virtual learning, working from home, stress of the holidays, etc. These factors on top of winter blues or SAD can make depression worse for many individuals.
Here are some tips for coping with the stressors that we are facing:
- Keep your social connections. We have never been more connected virtually. Have online Happy Hours or holiday parties that you normally would have had in person.
- Start celebrating the holidays EARLIER. Many of us started decorating for the holiday season much earlier this year. Continue to celebrate the same ways as previous years as safely as possible.
- Take holiday light tours. Pick a different neighborhood weekly. Take snacks and enjoy.
- Get Outside – weather permitting. Take walks, exercise, get fresh air.
- Take breaks throughout the day to recharge yourself.
- Check in with your family and friends and have them check in on you too. Talking it out helps rather than dealing with stressors on your own. Know that you are not alone. Create a support system.
- Spread love and happiness. Pay it forward. Remind family and friends how much you love them!
- Take part in winter activities where permitted – learn to ski, go snow tubing, ice skating, etc.
- Take up a new hobby. Crafting, reading, knitting, cooking, music lessons – the possibilities are endless.
While some of these tips are focused on the holidays, many of them we can continue to do throughout the whole winter season. We must remain focused on our mental health always. Seek help if you need to, whether to family or friends or a professional. Remember, you don’t have to go through this alone and stay safe.