Mental Well-Being

Seasonal Affective Disorder and COVID-19: How Do We Cope?

February 5, 2021

Winter always brings a long stretch of darker, colder, and shorter days to the Midwest, leaving many Hoosiers feeling depleted, run down, or just plain melancholy. Although many people have a natural tendency toward a few days of “winter blues” during the colder months of the year, those with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) feel more severe symptoms and even depression. This year, with the added bonus of isolation and quarantine, thanks to the global pandemic, you may be wondering how to cope.

Seasonal affective disorder

SAD is generally characterized as feelings of moderate to severe depression lasting the length of the season, mainly late fall through early spring. Colder temperatures stop us from getting outside in the sunshine for our much-needed vitamin D. Add to that gloomier weather and shortened daylight hours, and our circadian rhythm, which follows light, gets messed up. Thus, many of us feel more tired or run down with the dip in serotonin. Oversleeping, overeating, weight gain, depression, loss of interest in activities, and social withdrawal are just a few of the outward signs exhibited by those with SAD.

Treatment options

Treatment for SAD may involve psychotherapy as well as medication. What each person chooses, however, will depend on the severity of symptoms. For those experiencing “winter blues” or a milder form of SAD, alternative therapies such as supplementation with vitamin D or light therapy may be used instead. Light therapy is gaining in popularity and uses light boxes to mimic sunshine. Aromatherapy is also gaining ground, as our brains are wired to react to scent in ways that can stimulate emotions such as nostalgia or joy.

If you are worried about the isolation from the pandemic causing a worsening of your winter blues or SAD this year, try some coping tips from the list below:

Winter blues are a milder form of SAD. While both of these conditions benefit from lifestyle changes or alternative therapies, SAD sometimes needs medication or psychotherapy treatment. If you’ve been feeling more down than usual this winter, it may be due to both the isolation from COVID as well as seasonal sadness or depression. Either way, make sure to talk to your doctor or therapist about how you’re feeling and find a treatment that works best for you.