By: Vivian Conteras
As we’ve started to move into the fall and winter months, many who struggle with seasonal affective disorder, also known as seasonal depression or SAD have begun to see the changes in their mood, social lives, eating patterns, sleep changes, behavioral changes, and other common symptoms that occur. The seasonal change complied with COVID can also cause symptoms to worsen.
Since the pandemic started, many options for coping mechanisms and therapy options can no longer be offered or have been closed for social distancing purposes. This can lead to symptoms becoming more impactful in everyday activities, but this time also offers other coping mechanisms to be tested. An anonymous Glenelg Sophomore that has been diagnosed with depression and similar symptoms as SAD said, “Journaling more has been a coping mechanism used to help deal with not being able to receive my regular treatment.” Journaling is just one way that people can cope during this difficult time. Finding a personally helpful way to cope can be hard to do, but trying can be beneficial to find a mechanism that is best for you.
There are also other treatment options for people struggling with SAD that are safe to use at home. An anonymous Glenelg staff member who uses light therapy said it is “A reproduction of what the sunlight would do… chemically” and “helps reestablish my circadian rhythm.” Light therapy is a form of treatment that is usually done in the morning to help people who struggle with SAD boost mood and energy.
Another treatment that can be used at home by people who struggle with SAD is antidepressant medications which help with increasing chemical levels in the brain, such as serotonin, which helps with the stabilization of mood, our feeling of well-being, and happiness. Although these are an at-home option this type of medication has to be prescribed by a doctor after being evaluated and the doctor has diagnosed the patient with SAD.
Due to the socially distancing rules provided by the CDC, many have not been able to see friends, family, and other loved ones over the last nine to ten months of quarantine. One Glenelg staff member who would like to stay anonymous and has been diagnosed with SAD, says, “Socializing since I am an exceptionally social person, and the lack of socializing has been much more difficult.” Isolation during a pandemic can be harder for those who have SAD and has led to people feeling slow and sluggish with low energy. One way to be able to deal with the lack of social interaction is having Zoom, Google meets and/or Facetime calls with friends and family to have a sense of closeness with people once again and to get the desperately needed social interaction.
Those who struggle with SAD have all had to experience depression from living in a pandemic, now having to go through seasonal change and January, the most depressing month of the year, coming soon. The National Institute of Mental Health explains “oversleeping, overeating, weight gain, social withdrawal” can begin to worsen as we continue to have to stay inside to socially distance and seasons continue to change.
Many have been able to create a time-managed routine to follow during the pandemic. Among these individuals is Glenelg Senior Ethan Barajas. Barajas had not been diagnosed with SAD, but says, “I need to have a routine. I need to have something in place that I know today I’m doing this, this, and this,” which generally having a routine can help many work throughout the day. Many who struggle with SAD can’t always have the motivation to create a schedule and follow through with it. Depression is a part of SAD which means that it can cause people to lose interest and consistently feel exhausted leading them to not complete their wanted tasks.
SAD can be something that is hard to deal with and has surely been worse for people during the pandemic. It needs to be widely recognized by society so that they can help to the best of their ability. Also, so others can understand how they are feeling and recognize when someone is trying to cope during the fall and winter season. COVID has affected us all, but people dealing with mental health issues while also going through the pandemic needs to be addressed more than usual so we as a community can be there for them. Reach out to friends, family, classmates, and others who seem to be struggling and check in with them so they can receive the support they need.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
Grassroots crisis hotline in Columbia, MD: 410-531-6006