Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Countering seasonal depression during the COVID-19 pandemic

Man with his head in his hands, sitting in front of a Christmas tree The holiday season can be a stressful time of year for many people. (Photo by Army Lt. Col. Keith Hickox, Joint Forces Headquarters, Pennsylvania National Guard.)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Psychological Fitness | Depression | Suicide Prevention

The recent winter holidays are traditionally seen as a time of celebration and gathering with friends and family.

However, many people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may already feel that December and the New Year is a time of depression and worry. As we look to 2021 still facing travel restrictions, social distancing, the possibility of sickness from COVID-19, and now uncertainty about a vaccine – those who suffer from SAD are apt to have an even more difficult time over these winter months."

SAD, or sometimes called seasonal depression, is a subtype of a major depressive disorder. According to a National Institutes of Health, symptoms of SAD are varied, and may include feeling depressed most of the day, changes in weight or appetite, feeling sluggish or agitated, social withdrawal (feeling like “hibernating”), oversleeping, feeling hopeless, and having difficulty concentrating.

Those suffering from SAD might find themselves extra stressed and worried about family members, travel, and finances, which can contribute to feelings of depression.

If the pandemic— coupled with SAD— have you feeling out of control, you’re not alone. The pandemic has made many people feel as if they are out of control. “Recognizing our lack of control can be an important first step in coping,” explained Army Capt. (Dr.) Jacob Eliason, a psychiatry resident at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Eliason encourages helpful lifestyle changes to help mitigate these symptoms. These include regular exercise, a healthy diet, and getting 8 hours of rest per night.

Sometimes, however, patients who experience more disruptive mood symptoms may benefit from therapy or antidepressants. “Vitamin D supplements are [also] occasionally used to treat seasonal depression,” Eliason continued.

He also suggested sunlight therapy on sunny days, “Both are typically inexpensive and low-risk treatments but should be undertaken on an individual basis under the guidance of a [healthcare] provider.”

Another way to combat seasonal depression is partaking in fun social activities. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and new social distancing guidelines throughout the country, this may be more difficult. The CDC has counseled people to maintain social distancing when possible, and to wear masks when distancing isn’t possible. Our loved ones may have medical concerns or issues we aren’t aware about, so their preference toward social distancing and mask wearing should be respected.

“In this time of year, when many of us spend time with people outside of our normal social sphere, it is important to have respectful and proactive communication with friends and family members about pandemic precautions,” said Eliason. “In fact, it is often easiest to set ground rules before social gatherings by contacting the host and letting them know what adjustments you are willing to make regarding mask wearing, food preparation, and seating arrangements.

For some people, it might mean being a little creative this season,” Eliason added.

Seasonal Depression and COVID-19 don’t have to stop us from enjoying family and friends during the pandemic. Even if we can’t be physically near, showing love and compassion to those closest to our hearts is important.  “Be willing to listen to [family and friends] if you sense they are struggling with their mental health,” said Eliason, adding that, “If low mood or anxiety continue to be disruptive, people should not hesitate to get in touch with a medical or behavioral health provider.”

You also may be interested in...

Omega 3 Fats Physical and Mental Health Benefits

Presentation
11/14/2011

Omega 3 Fats Physical and Mental Health Benefits briefing presented to the Defense Health Board Nov. 14, 2011

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Nutritional Fitness

DoD Instruction 6490.08: Command Notification Requirements to Dispel Stigma in Providing Mental Health Care to Service Members

Policy

This instruction provides guidance for balance between patient confidentiality rights and the commander’s right to know for operation and risk management decisions.

  • Identification #: DoD Instruction 6490.08
  • Date: 8/17/2011
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: N/A

Implementation of Recommendations on the Prevention of Suicide

Presentation
6/14/2011

Implementation of Recommendations on the Prevention of Suicide briefing presented to the Defense Health Board June 14, 2011

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention

DoD Psychotropic Medication Prescription Practices and Complementary Alternative Medicine Use

Report
6/1/2011

Defense Health Board: DoD Psychotropic Medication Prescription Practices and Complementary Alternative Medicine Use

Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces Update

Presentation
11/1/2010

Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces Update briefing presented to the Defense Health Board Nov. 1, 2010

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention

Psychiatric Medications and Complementary and Alternative Medical Treatments

Presentation
8/18/2010

Psychiatric Medications and Complementary and Alternative Medical Treatments briefing presented to the Defense Health Board Aug. 18, 2010

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness

Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces Update

Presentation
8/18/2010

Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces Update briefing presented to the Defense Health Board Aug. 18, 2010

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention

The Challenge and the Promise: Strengthening the Force, Preventing Suicide, and Saving Lives

Report
8/1/2010

Final Report of the DoD Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention

Mental Health Assessments for Members of the Armed Forces Deployed in Connection with a Contingency Operation

Policy

Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces

Presentation
6/8/2010

Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces briefing presented to the Defense Health Board June 8, 2010

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention

Metrics for DoD Mental Health Preclinical Program Effectiveness and Clinical Program Outcomes

Report
6/8/2010

Defense Health Board: Metrics for DoD Mental Health Preclinical Program Effectiveness and Clinical Program Outcomes

Army Behavioral Health Integrated Data Environment

Presentation
5/11/2010

Army Behavioral Health Integrated Data Environment briefing presented to the Defense Health Board May 11, 2010

Department of Defense Suicide Prevention

Presentation
5/11/2010

DesDepartment of Defense Suicide Prevention briefing presented to the Defense Health Board May 11, 2010

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention

US Coast Guard Suicide Prevention Program

Presentation
4/12/2010

US Coast Guard Suicide Prevention Program briefing presented to the Defense Health Board April 12, 2010

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention

Handout on Safe and Effective Messaging for Suicide Prevention

Presentation
4/12/2010

Handout on Safe and Effective Messaging for Suicide Prevention presented to the Defense Health Board April 12, 2010

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention
<< < ... 36 37 38 39 > >> 
Showing results 541 - 555 Page 37 of 39

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.