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Managing seasonal depression during the pandemic

Many people are already feeling low-grade depression due to the pandemic. Scott Bea, PsyD, offers advice for navigating seasonal depression on top of COVID-19.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As long sunny days turn shorter and darker some people begin to experience seasonal depression.

But, many of us are already feeling low-grade depression due to COVID-19 restrictions, which could turn fall and winter into a real mental health struggle.

“If we’re already feeling some helplessness, hopelessness, irritability, confinement and we add the winter months to it – short daylight hours, limited exposure to daylight; those that are experiencing seasonal affective disorder are going to really be challenged,” said Scott Bea, PsyD, a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Bea suggests taking action before winter arrives.

He said committing to an exercise program is a great place to start because exercise – just about any type – has a positive impact on mood.

It’s also a good idea to plan and maintain social connections – he said virtual interactions with family and friends or socially distanced outdoor activities, can be helpful.

Keeping busy with a structured schedule is beneficial too.

“We know a good biological treatment for depression is called activity scheduling,” said Dr. Bea. “It doesn’t have a lot of appeal for people on the surface, but if you can schedule your days in blocks of time with meaningful, purposeful, recreational, interpersonal, connecting sorts of activities; commit yourself to those activities, that gets you out of your mind where a lot of the misery occurs, into your real life, and we know that that changes what our brain does biologically.”

Dr. Bea said people who struggle with seasonal affective disorder may also want to consider buying a therapy light that shines at 10,000 Lux.

He said sitting in front of a therapy light for 30 minutes every day is an additional measure for fighting seasonal depression.

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