Even in a normal year, winter weather and long nights can take a toll on your physical and mental wellbeing. This winter, the COVID-19 pandemic, job losses, and political discord may make the winter blues even more challenging – particularly for people who have seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or depression.
“All of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic and politics is making it harder for people to rely on coping strategies they normally use,” said M Health Fairview Psychiatrist C. Sophia Albott, MD, MA. “The pandemic prevents people from connecting with people, making it incredibly more difficult to some to get the support they need.”
To help, we asked Albott for tips and coping strategies to safely boost your mental health this winter, while supporting the wellbeing of your family and friends. If you need additional support or treatment, we strongly encourage you to seek professional mental healthcare.
Catch up with loved ones virtually or outdoors in a socially distant setting. “Even talking with someone on the phone can be helpful,” Albott said. Schedule a digital social hour or bring your friends together to participate in trivia sessions, movie screenings, and other activities through via video conferencing tools. It’s OK to ask for help, too. Talking with people you trust about your concerns and how you are managing them can help you build mental and emotional strength.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may be caused by the lack of sunlight exposure in the winter. If you notice that seasonal changes have caused trouble sleeping, a poor appetite, or anxiety, try using a light box. Albott recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of light box usage daily, preferably in the morning, to make things easier. People can get a prescription for a device from a doctor or purchase a light box online. Make sure that you choose a light box that is rated for 10,000 lux, and that the light source is placed within two feet of your face when in use.