Senior Health Seasonal Affective Disorder and COVID 12/10/2020 | By Seniors Guide Staff It might not be much comfort, but you are not alone if you are feeling down right now. Many people have been struggling with the emotional and mental side effects of a pandemic; side effects that bring on feelings of isolation and anxiety. Add to that the shorter days and cold weather of winter, and more people than ever will likely experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD). While around 5% of adults in the United States commonly suffer through SAD during the months of less sunlight, this year, the symptoms could be much worse with the combination of COVID-19, increased darkness, and flu season. Although you can’t make the coronavirus disappear, there are some things you can do to keep the combination of seasonal affective disorder and COVID at bay. Follow these suggestions as you wait for the virus to diminish and warm weather to return. What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder? SAD is a type of depression that typically emerges during the fall and winter months when the hours of sunlight decrease. The symptoms that accompany the disorder usually subside when it gets closer to spring, so anyone who experiences depression symptoms throughout the year should consult with a physician since it could be major depression instead of SAD. The reason that only some people get SAD is not yet known, but researchers have drawn conclusions based on these biological cues: Problems regulating serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in dictating moodAn overproduction of melatoninA decrease in the production of vitamin D What Are the Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder? The symptoms of SAD can vary but are usually like those found in individuals with major depression. They can include the following: Feeling depressed most daysFeelings of hopelessness and worthlessnessTrouble sleeping or sleeping too muchLow energy and fatigueIrritabilityIsolation and social withdrawal Overeating Trouble concentrating Seasonal Affective Disorder and COVID-19 Because this is the first winter of COVID-19, even the experts can’t say with certainty what effect the virus will have on SAD. However, limited social interaction, job losses, changes in schooling, and even the hostile political climate will more-than-likely create stress and fear, making the symptoms of SAD even worse. As the holidays approach, it is much less likely that parties and family gatherings will be the same as in past years. Many people will find it challenging to cope with these changes, and it will be especially difficult for those already dealing with seasonal affective disorder. However, you do not have to sit by idly and silently suffer these symptoms. Here are a few suggestions that will help you weather the combined storm of seasonal depression and COVID-19. Use these tips and take back control: Self-care strategies Self-care means something different to everyone but generally involves maintaining a daily routine, eating healthy meals, and exercising regularly. Virtual social interaction Interacting virtually cannot take the place of engaging with others in person. However, for now, it is critical to stay connected to others any way you can. Taking part in any social activities, even at a distance, will stave off the symptoms of SAD and help you through the pandemic. Stay within your bubble Set up a holiday dinner at home with the friends and family in your “bubble.” Do it safely by confining it to those with whom you have quarantined. While you must avoid those large gatherings, it’s also crucial for your mental health to safely interact with those closest to you. Consider psychotherapy A professional could help you identify negative thought patterns while providing you with coping strategies and self-care methods. Those who are not comfortable with an office visit during the pandemic might consider teletherapy. Medication According to a 2014 article in World Psychiatry, the combination of an antidepressant and talk therapy has been more effective in treating depression than either of these treatments alone. Let the light in Opening all the blinds in your house allows more natural light to enter during the fall and winter months. Take heart! Before you know it, spring will be here, and the coronavirus will be a distant memory. Until then, follow these suggestions, stay safe, and be hopeful! Read More Seniors Guide Staff Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. 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