Coping with the Cold & COVID-19: How to Thrive This Winter
You’ve probably heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD? It’s a form of depression related to the change of seasons. Most often, it occurs as fall turns to winter. Moods can shift significantly when there is less sun and much colder weather. And now, add in the COVID-19 pandemic with its myriad mitigation tactics.
This winter will present some previously formidable challenges. To thrive through it all, you will need a plan. With focused preparation and awareness, you can navigate a daunting combination of seasonal and health concerns. It all begins with self-education the appropriate support.
Signs and Symptoms of SAD
- A general feeling of agitation, sluggishness, and fatigue
- No longer showing in things you’ve always enjoyed
- Inability to focus and concentrate
- Physical changes, e.g. sleep disturbances (particularly oversleeping), weight gain, changes in your appetite, and decreased energy levels
Left unaddressed, SAD can escalate to include more dangerous symptoms like:
- Feeling low or “blue” every day for most of the day
- Loss of self-worth
- Intense guilt
- Thoughts of death, dying, or suicide
Clearly, this is much more than just feeling anxious or depressed about the cold weather. Moreover, this winter, there are many new variables to juggle.
New Factors in 2020-21
Even if you’re not one of the roughly 5 percent of American adults who regularly experience SAD, the 2020-21 winter has the potential to knock you for a loop. Since the pandemic first reared its head in the U.S., we’ve all experienced some serious emotional challenges. With so much uncertainty, you may be dealing with:
- Social isolation
- Financial distress
- Loss of routine
- Sensory overload
- No time or space to yourself
- Hostile interactions with those who have differing views
To thrive through it all, you will need advanced planning, focused preparation, and support.
How to Thrive This Winter
Accept That This Winter Will Be Different
Every single one of us is struggling. It likely feels difficult to be your best in 2020. Accept this for what it is, this season will pass. In the meantime, treat yourself kindly. Accordingly, consider these tips to thrive despite the cold and COVID concerns.
You’ve probably had to create new social structures and home routines this year. For example, you may be working from home and/or have children attending school virtually. It is essential to use this skill for making new self-care structures too. All of the following are vital for navigating low moods and depressive thinking:
- Get enough sleep and maintain as steady a sleep schedule as possible.
- Stay active; consider daily walks.
- Practice stress management and relaxation techniques.
- Follow health guidelines for protection against illness.
- Make healthy food choices, stay hydrated, and consider supplements to counter a lack of sun.
D your best to notice and curb the urge to withdraw. Take advantage of all the digital methods by which you can maintain a social circle. Isolation is not your ally right now. It’s reasonable to seek some solitude if you’ve been at home with your entire family for months. However, use that time alone to recharge rather than isolate.
Get Outside, if Possible and Safe
Depending on your location (and your perspective on things), you may be able to get outside for walks or socially-distant errands. Do this safely and make your interactions meaningful. Everyone you meet is struggling so try o be patient, compassionate, and intentional.
Create a Social Pod
If you’re fortunate enough to have family or neighbors you fully trust, you can create a small social pod. This will help reduce the sense of loneliness and keep safety concerns manageable. Do plan carefully and set firm ground rules. Work cooperatively and have regular check-in conversations. This will ensure everyone is still on the same page.
You may write or keep a journal. Perhaps you prefer making music or drawing or any other creative outlet. Give voice to your emotions whenever possible. They deserve to be recognized and expressed. None of us has been through anything like 2020.
It seems like the ideal time to reach out to a therapist for the support and guidance you need. Let’s work through the winter together. Please read more about depression counseling and reach out for a consultation soon.
For more information on depression treatment click here.