Each year, about 5% of adults in the United States experience seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD.
Unfortunately, with the active COVID pandemic, there’s a greater chance for seasonal depression happening to a larger number of people. Seasonal affective disorder can be serious, but there are ways to help lessen its effects on everyone – including healthcare workers.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression with a seasonal pattern that typically shows up during the fall and winter months and usually improves with the coming of spring. During the winter months, people with SAD are mainly affected by lower degrees of sunlight. This includes healthcare workers who can be prone to developing the disorder due to lack of environmental light, long hours spent in artificial light, and high levels of occupational stress.
What are the Symptoms?
People prone to SAD tend to experience many of the same symptoms typically associated with depression, including low mood, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, lack of energy, hopelessness and despair. Those affected may also:
- Oversleep and still feel tired
- Crave carbohydrates
- Notice muscle tension or stomach problems
- Have symptoms of depression, such as feeling sad, losing interest in activities or having difficulty concentrating
The Negative Effects of COVID-19
Dealing with SAD during a pandemic that limits social interaction, causes many people to experience increased tension and anxiety. Additionally, changes at home such as a child’s schooling, childcare, household financial uncertainty, etc. may cause depression symptoms to worsen.
While everyone reacts differently, it’s safe to say that the stresses related to COVID-19 will impact those with SAD and make it more difficult to cope. The pandemic adds a cluster of stressors that affect people of all ages, including the ability to take care of themselves and in the case of healthcare workers – take care of their patients.
How to Manage SAD?
It’s important to take extra care of your mental health to keep SAD at bay. The good news is, there are ways to manage and treat the symptoms including:
- Engage in Social Activities
Anyone experiencing SAD should keep in close contact with their friends and loved ones as loneliness and isolation make the effects worse.
- Get Out in the Sun
Find time to go out for a walk or a run or sit on your porch and have a virtual chat with a friend. The benefits of getting some sun can help to build up resilience to the effects of SAD.
- Maintain your Routines
Sleep, wake and eat on a regular schedule. Exercise regularly – at least 30 minutes per day.
- Drink Alcohol in Moderation
A lot of people have been prone to overindulging during the pandemic. Alcohol is a depressant, so be mindful of your intake.
- Interact Virtually
Engaging in social activities can help alleviate the symptoms of SAD. While it may not feel the same to engage in these activities virtually, it’s important to do so as this will help to stay connected to others.
- Talk About It
Talking with a professional can be helpful in identifying negative thought patterns, coping strategies, and ways to improve self-care. For those reluctant to come in for an office visit during the pandemic, consider teletherapy.
Reach Out to i4 Search Group
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