Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that typically occurs in the winter due to the cold, lack of sunlight, and a decrease in outdoor activities. With activities already limited and an increase in depressive symptoms onset by the pandemic, it is expected that many more people will experience SAD this winter. Below are some tips from the Washington Post to help cope.
Line Up Things That Help
Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, advises: “If you know today is okay, but winter may be harder, lay the groundwork.” Gordon says this can include ensuring you have a steady supply of medication in case it becomes harder to get out, having a therapist lined up, and scheduling weekly calls with loved ones. If exercise helps, make a plan to work out safely indoors during wintertime; Mark Riechers, a 34-year-old radio producer with an affinity for cycling, says that can provide structure and normalcy.
Know Your Triggers
She recommends writing down in advance the warning signs of when depression may be deepening — for example, when you stop taking care of yourself or your home.
Get a Light Box or SAD Lamp
Figure Out Ways to Stay Connected
Try to broaden your support network beyond your loved ones. “Reach out to the people around you, find your online communities, just to know that you’re not alone,” Pfenning says.
Gordon says talking to someone else about your feelings can also help you gauge whether you’re just feeling off or whether there’s something more serious going on. “For people who are thinking of harming themselves, talking to someone really helps,” he says.
Take Advantage of Online Therapy
Telehealth, or virtual health care, is revolutionizing mental health care and making it more accessible, Carlson says. It can also make therapy a little less daunting for new patients because it can be accessed directly from home.
Preparing coping mechanisms such as this will do more than help mitigate depression; it will make people more prepared to handle new crises, Gordon says. “While the pandemic is a challenge to all of us,” he says, “it’s also an opportunity to build resilience.”