Strategies to help ‘winter blues’ as pandemic makes more people depressed

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Have you been experiencing a loss of energy, sleeping too much, overeating or depressed? There are resources for you

(WKBN) – You may have heard it called the “winter blues.” Many people deal with depression around this time of year as the days get shorter, darker and quieter. These common winter feelings can be amplified by the pandemic.

There’s a specific name for that feeling in the winter — seasonal affective disorder. Health experts say about 3% of the population deals with it and because of the pandemic this year, it’s affecting more people.

Seasonal affective disorder is a subtype of depression and has a lot of common symptoms. People tend to experience a loss of energy, no concentration and a change in appetite.

However, seasonal affective disorder symptoms can be more specific and there are certain things to watch for.

“You tend to see more hypersomnia — sleeping too much, kind of like hibernating. Low energy, overeating. A lot of people say they only want to eat carbohydrates and just a lot of hibernating mode,” said Sarah Momen, a psychiatrist.

Momen said there has been a pretty moderate increase in people feeling this way, especially this year. This winter has made it even more difficult because we’re being told to stay inside and isolate. That takes away a lot of the socializing many people need while dealing with this.

Some of Momen’s patients are used to doing group meetings but now everything is virtual, which is not the same.

In spite of the pandemic, Momen said there are still ways to keep yourself from feeling down and overwhelmed.

“A lot of people are finding it helpful to put their energy into some kind of creative thing. Projects, volunteering, doing something — even some kind of spiritual thing. Doing something else to keep your mind active, your body active and give yourself some kind of purpose.”

There is a treatment for seasonal affective disorder — light therapy. Basically, you’re given a light box, which is kind of like a lamp, and you sit in front of it for 30 minutes.

Momen also recommends keeping in contact with family and friends, and engaging in work and social life — even if it’s virtually.

She said the weather, mental health and COVID have all added to more substance abuse, alcohol abuse and suicide.

Momen wants to remind people that if they’re experiencing any depression-like symptoms, there are still resources out there. Keep going to your doctor and therapist, and reaching out to family and friends.

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