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Kalamazoo expert offers advice for coping with seasonal depression during COVID-19

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A winter storm brought snow to the Tulsa, Okla. area on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. Snowfall totaling up to 5 inches is expected to fall throughout the Tulsa region. (John Clanton/Tulsa World/Tulsa World via AP)

Some of us embrace the winter, but many of us dread the colder months.

As the seasons change and daylight becomes less and less, experts warned Michiganders could begin to struggle with seasonal depression.

“This is something most of us deal with this anyway," Dr. Larry Beer, the President of Child & Family Psychological Services in Kalamazoo, said. “It’s a type of depression that lasts throughout the whole season usually, which is affected by the shorter amounts of daylight.”

Beer noted the pandemic had already increased the rate of depression due to people having to be isolated and retreating indoors more to avoid being in contact with others.

Adding Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, to a world that is struggling with mental health during the pandemic could lead to an unprecedented situation, Beer said.

“There is enough stress happening right now between COVID issues, election issues and social justice issues," Beer said. "We have plenty to feel bad about and this is really just a test of people's coping skills.”

According to Beer, SAD typically occurs during the winter months but can happen sometimes during summer.

In a recent CDC survey, 40% of Americans reported struggling with mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Psychology Today, SAD affects 10 million Americans.

Symptoms of SAD

  • Depressed mood
  • Negative thoughts
  • Fatigue
  • Hypersomnia (Sleeping too much)
  • Increased intake of carbohydrates/weight gain
  • Social withdrawal/hibernating

"I know everyone is saying they are sick of Zoom calls, but as we head into the winter months and more uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, it's important we stay connected with one another," Beer said.

Tips for managing SAD:

  1. Spend time in the sunlight: Take a walk on your lunch break. Hike, ski, or snowshoe on the weekends. Or sit by the window and read.
  2. Maintain routines: Sleep, wake, and eat on a regular schedule. Exercise regularly.
  3. Limit alcohol intake
  4. Make time to unwind: Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  5. Connect with others: Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  6. Try light therapy: Exposure to bright light in the mornings may be as effective as talk therapy in treating SAD, according to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. A mental health professional can help you decide if light therapy is right for you.
  7. Practice meditation
  8. Get professional help

Kalamazoo Community Mental Health Resources:

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