Does COVID affect SAD?
Yes! The same way that any major stress can affect depression – stress causes biological changes in the brain and changes our social behaviours. The COVID-19 pandemic restrictions lead to less social interaction, feelings of isolation, changes in our daily routines, and fewer hobbies and activities to engage us. These stresses are all magnified in the fall and winter, when the weather makes it less likely for us to be outdoors, and can worsen SAD.
What can I do? Here are some tips:
- Get vaxxed! Being fully vaccinated allows you to maximize your activities.
- Start a regular schedule now! Setting a regular time to go to sleep and to wake up in the morning can help to maintain your circadian rhythms.
- Take a morning walk! Getting some morning light, even in the winter, can be helpful because outdoor light on cloudy days is still 5-10X as bright as indoor light.
- Working? Take a noon hour walk! Both the outdoor light and the exercise will improve your mood. And, it might help to keep you away from a heavy lunch.
- Keep up your activities! Once you stop doing things, it gets harder to restart. Schedule activities that you enjoy into your calendar to remind you.
- Get a flu shot! Even if it’s not COVID-19, a winter flu makes your mood and energy worse. Take the best precautions to keep from getting sick.
- Get your light box ready! Don’t wait till your symptoms get to the point where you don’t have energy or motivation to start light therapy.
- Take Vitamin D! Many people are vitamin D deficient in winter because of the lack of outdoor light, and low levels are associated with depression. Even though taking vitamin D hasn’t been proven to help with depression or SAD, it is worth trying because there are other health benefits to vitamin D.