Seasonal affective depression, or SAD (very fitting), is defined as a “type of depression that’s related to changes in season,” usually starting and ending around the same time of year. Many individuals are working remotely, and the shorter days coupled with the pandemic make it difficult to connect with others in person. This leaves many to experience detrimental mental health effects.
I spoke to Social Worker and Counsellor Chloe Oliver about the effects SAD can have on individuals––primarily during the pandemic––and how to combat it. Some major symptoms of SAD can be feeling sluggish, eating too much or too little, losing interest in activities and other symptoms of depression. Oliver says that many people who work remote nine-to-five jobs are already struggling with the loss of human interaction. Finishing work to see that it is chilly and dark outside surely doesn’t help either. Although we are all living through uncertain and difficult times––now add the occasional snowstorm and shorter days––there are still ways to cope with seasonal depression.
- Talk to your doctor
Before turning to any external sources, it may be beneficial to speak to your family doctor when you find yourself dealing with seasonal depression. In conjunction with other coping mechanisms, Oliver says that medication and possible supplements can be extremely helpful and are worth looking into. SAD causes heightened levels of depression that can be difficult to deal with, and adding in layers of uncertainty and control due to the pandemic can create a headspace that may be tough to manage. Seeking help from a professional can be a great place to start.
- Find Connections
As typical people, we strive for human connection and social interaction. Shorter days and isolation deprive us of our usual interactions, whether it is work or personal. Oliver says that loss of connection can lead to a loss of purpose.
“One of the most important things in terms of healing from depression is to be less isolated and have social engagements to be able to feel the support of others,” says Oliver. “Particularly with the pandemic, it’s cold; we can’t get together outside for a picnic, in someone’s backyard, or the porch.”
Oliver shares that the small things matter, like calling up family and friends, or taking your dog for a walk. Even something as simple as caring for a plant can make individuals feel as though they have meaning in life.“Whether that’s calling a neighbour that you know is feeling isolated and having that connection to feel like you have meaning to someone else’s life is really key,” says Oliver. “Otherwise we can get stuck in our own thoughts.”
- Try Out Online Resources
Living in a technology-driven era, finding resources online is a no-brainer when coping with seasonal depression. Some popular apps like Headspace and Calm are helpful. Oliver says that searching for cognitive behavioural therapy can help individuals become aware of how their thoughts affect their moods. “CBT is one of the most well-known types of therapy,” Oliver says, “It’s really looking at how our thoughts impact our emotions, moods and behaviours.” She further explains that recognizing thought patterns can allow people to shift their behaviour as well, which can significantly affect their mood and overall demeanour.
- Remember to Go Easy on Yourself
Since the beginning of the pandemic, it seems that everyone is posting about being productive and taking advantage of every waking moment. It’s often easy to believe that everyone is doing better than we are. “How do you know that other people [aren’t also] struggling?” Oliver asks. “This is like a marathon. It’s normal to feel quite exhausted during this time.” She says that there is a lot of meaning that can be found now, but it’s also beneficial to slow down and focus on mental health. Oftentimes, listicles will give you ways to easily fix your SAD, but it’s crucial not to overwhelm yourself with what you feel like you should be doing.
Go easy on yourself during these unprecedented times.
- Keep in Mind That Winter Passes
For many, fall is an anxiety-driven season––almost like the stomach-wrenching feeling of an eviction notice––letting us know that winter is just around the corner. But, like all seasons, winter will pass just as it has before. Oliver shares that although seemingly cliche, terrible feelings pass just like the seasons. “[It’s important to remember] what [it was] that got me through [and] what [it was] that gave me a sense of meaning or connection all those years, because we tend to forget that and think that we’re never going to make it through [winter],” Oliver explains. Remember the things that got you through last winter and recognize that you are going to get through it this time, too.
When facing heightened feelings of seasonal depression, remember there are ways to cope. Whether it’s through speaking to your doctor, family and friends, finding resources online and taking it easy– you will get through this.
As we begin March, it’s important to remember that we’ve gotten through the worst parts of winter, and spring is right around the corner. As Oliver says: “It’s important to remember that it’s not the end of your story, rather we’re right in the middle of it.”