Managing seasonal affective disorder during the pandemic

Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 8:46 AM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The pandemic continues to impact our state of mind. Seasonal Affective Disorder is usually a concern this time of year, but symptoms could be more prevalent in 2020. Dr. Larry Mitnaul, psychiatrist at Ascension Via Christi, says our lifestyle from this past year could impact those who suffer from season affective disorder even more.

  1. Seasonal affective disorder causes depressive symptoms because of the season. Symptoms include low mood and low energy. It’s more common in the wintertime, due in part to the short days of sunlight and decreased social interaction.
  2. Up to 20 percent of adults have a change in mood because of the seasons. According to Dr. Mitnaul, five to nine percent of adults have a major depressive disorder associated with the seasons, and 10 to 20 percent could experience minor symptoms.
  3. Symptoms impact sleep, appetite, and energy. Symptoms include chronically oversleeping, not getting enough restful sleep, abnormal appetite patterns, and an overall feeling of fatigue.
  4. If you are experiencing symptoms, adjust your current habits. Even small adjustments can help you feel more energized.
  5. Get professional help. Talk to a therapist or counselor if you feel that your symptoms are too severe to handle on your own.
  6. Watch what you are putting into your body. Dr. Mitnaul says food is like medicine for your body. He says you should have a nutritious diet.
  7. Exercise regularly. Exercise can suppress the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder without medication.
  8. Have a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even through the weekend. “As we lose daylight, for a lot of us, we lose a little bit of that sense of when is our natural falling asleep time because at 6:30 it’s you know, already dark outside,” Dr. Mitnaul says.
  9. Get sun exposure. If you can’t get in direct sunlight, Dr. Mitnaul suggests getting a lamp to simulate sunshine for your body.
  10. Learn strategies to cope with stress and worry. Dr. Mitnaul says brains are organs of expectation, and brains and prone to planning for the worst-case scenario.
  11. At the end of the day, wipe the slate clean. Dr. Mitnaul says the brain is still trying to solve problems even when we are not actively thinking about it. Finding a routine that helps you relax is a good step to better rest.
  12. Form an evening routine. Take out a notepad and write down everything you have to do the next day. Give them an order for what needs to happen first and what can wait.
  13. Make a plan to take care of those responsibilities. Break it down into smaller steps if you need to.
  14. It may be out of your control. Dr. Mitnaul says we can have a general sense that everything will work out, but sometimes brains are just not content with that. “Being able to at least write it down or know your approach or have it organized or systematized in a way that makes it feel more bite-size is a way to make it less overwhelming,” Dr. Mitnaul says.

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