Navigating Seasonal Depression During A Pandemic & Flu Season

As if 2020 hasn’t already been a dark year, now we have lost another hour of daylight. Daylight savings can easily impact our mood, because we are seeing less sunlight and the nights feel longer. Not to mention, we are going on the ninth month of being in a pandemic and cases of COVID-19 are rising each day. In the summer it may have felt a little easier to navigate being safe because the weather was warmer, allowing us to spend time with loved ones outside (socially distant of course), and not pose as much of a risk. But as the weather gets colder, and the days get darker, it leaves us with limited options. On top of that, flu season has arrived, and symptoms can appear similar to COVID-19, heightening our anxiety. Each of the above circumstances are enough to cause intense emotions on their own. While daylight savings and flu season are annual occurrences, we have never had to tackle them, and a global pandemic simultaneously.


The winter months and holidays can also be a time where people may feel more depressed. According to the World Health Organization, depression is a leading cause of disability. More than 264 million people suffer from it, and women are more affected than men. A subcategory of depression is seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Even the acronym is sad, so I think that tells you everything you need to know. It’s defined as seasonal because it typically begins and ends around the same time, usually occurring when the seasons change. Many of us may already be familiar with SAD, but how do we navigate it when the whole year has been a rough one? We’ve lost huge historical fig


ures, witnessed excessive and televised violence against our community, just finished a high-anxiety election season, and experienced collective trauma and grief. This may also be the first holiday season where families are not gathering the way they used to. So if you have been feeling gloomy, overwhelmed, sad, or unmotivated, that is completely understandable and you are not alone. I hope the following bits of advice can assist you in managing this season.

Advice:

  • Let light in. As soon as you wake up in the morning, open up your blinds. The brighter your space feels, the less gloomy you should feel. Sunlight is extremely beneficial for your mental health. Not getting enough sunlight has the ability to decrease your serotonin levels, which can impact your mood.

  • Create morning and bedtime routines. I find that routines help add some calmness to the day. It’s important to do small things that bring you joy during these routines. Maybe incorporating journaling, reading devotionals, or reciting some affirmations can get your day started on a positive note. And to wind down, you can make a cup of tea, stretch, get off your phone, or read. Your routine is up to you, as long as you feel it helps add some structure to your day.

  • Be present. Meditation or breathing exercises can be great ways to help you stay calm and focus on what is happening in the moment. With the year that we’ve had, I think we have all learned not to take simple things for granted. Operating from a place of gratitud


e helps you focus on abundance, instead of feeling like you are constantly in a state of lack.

  • Move your body. Exercise has often been said to have amazing benefits, not just for your physical health, but your mental health as well. While you exercise, your body releases endorphins that can improve your mood. Even if exercising or sweating is not your thing, yoga is considered exercise as well. It can help you connect with your breath, stretch your muscles, and release tension that you may be holding in your body.

  • Get some fresh air. I know the weather may be getting cooler, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bundle up and still go outside. Whether it be sitting on your balcony or porch, or just going for a walk, going outside can be a well needed break. If you are working from home and staring at a screen all day, finding small moments to spend time with nature can spark your senses and help to keep you grounded as well.

  • Don’t isolate yourself. I know with the pandemic, we are told to self-quarantine. But self-quarantine does not mean self-isolation. You can still interact with others, and feel surrounded by comm


unity without physically being in the same space. I’m sure we all have zoom fatigue by now, but technology is the main way we have right now to feel connected to each other. Phone calls, texts, and check-ins can also be ways to help you not feel so alone.

Tools:

  • Light therapy. One tool that can help add some light to your space, can be using a light therapy lamp. They are easy to find, and not too expensive. If you don’t want to purchase any of those, I find christmas lights and burning candles to also be a way to add light to my space and increase my mood.

  • Vitamin D Supplements. Our bodies produce vitamin D when it is directly exposed to sunlight. However, in the winter our exposure to sunlight typically decreases. Not to mention staying indoors due to a pandemic, will likely cause an even more drastic decrease. So find ways to add vitamin D back into your body, whether it be through vitamins or foods containing vitamin D.

  • Shine App. I love the Shine App, and use it to help me practice gratitude each morning, It also has daily meditations and informative articles as well. It is free to download and use. Find out more info here: https://www.theshineapp.com/

  • FitOn App. I suggest this app to help you move your body. They have exercises ranging from yoga, pilates, cardio, HIIT, and more. They have also recently added meditations as well, and all of these features are available for free. If you choose to pay for the premium plan,


you’re able to do workouts with your friends and receive a full list of recipes to assist with healthy eating as well. Find more info at: https://fitonapp.com/

  • The Ladder App. The ladder app allows you to track your habits, and practice mindfulness by having journal entries as well. I love using this app to make sure I’ve accomplished all of the aspects of my morning routine. They also provide insights into how your habits are impacting your mood. You can learn more here: https://myladder.health/

Jordan Madison, LCMFT

AUTHOR

Jordan is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist (LCMFT), originally from Brooklyn, NY but currently practicing in the DMV area. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Spelman College, and her M.S. in Couple & Family Therapy from UMD-College Park. Since receiving her degrees, she's been working at a private practice in Bethesda, MD as a couple and family therapist. She is passionate about reducing the stigma around mental health and going to therapy in the Black community. She created Therapy is my J.A.M., LLC as a way to promote conversations and educate others on building and maintaining healthy relationships, as well as taking care of yourself. When she is not working, she practices self care by doing yoga, listening to 90s R&B, lighting candles, journaling, and creating her own hair masks.


Credit: This article was found at www.therapyforblackgirls.com


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