- With the implementation of pandemic restrictions and the holidays season in progress, many people are struggling with their mental health.
- Not surprisingly, seasonal affective disorder — also known as SAD — is affecting many more people this year.
- These 6 health hacks can help boost your mood and you get in the holiday spirit, even in the midst of the pandemic
The holiday season is already upon us — and with a global pandemic in full surge mode and the potential of SAD (SAD) affecting many — it can be difficult to get into the spirit.
If pandemic restrictions and SAD have you feeling down, you’re not alone. If you are struggling with either or both of these, we can help. We’ve gathered the top 6 health hacks to boost your mood during this uncertain and challenging time.
Are you experiencing SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, is a form of depression with a cyclical pattern. According to The American Psychiatric Association, people who suffer from symptoms of seasonal depression usually experience it during the fall and winter months — due to less sunlight — and symptoms usually improve with the arrival of spring and summer months.
The American Psychiatric Association reports that each year, about 5 percent of adults in the United States experience SAD.
For those who have been diagnosed with SAD, common symptoms can include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood.
- A loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.
- Changes in appetite; usually eating more, craving carbohydrates.
- Change in sleep; usually sleeping too much.
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue despite increased sleep hours.
- Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, hand-wringing) or slowed movements or speech.
- Feeling worthless or guilty.
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
Remember: if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms for the first time or it is on-going, always contact your doctor first to receive the necessary recommendations and treatment.
SAD and the Pandemic
As the pandemic limits social interactions, people who experience SAD might find an increase in anxiety, tension and other symptoms. It is thought that in 2020, many people who have already been diagnosed with the disorder may experience worsening symptoms — while other people, who have never experienced it, may now struggle with it due to the pandemic.
We’re entering into the months most common for SAD — and along with it there will be Pandemic restrictions. As the pandemic puts a damper on what the holiday season normally looks like, it’s important to take care of ourselves using these 6 health hacks.
1. Try to get in social activity
Although socializing looks a lot different right now, there are still safe and fun ways to get in your social time. Setting up weekly Facetime, Zoom calls or classic phone calls with friends and family you don’t live with is a great way to do so. Whether you’re texting, making a call or video chatting, finding a way to keep in contact with loved ones can greatly help during this time.
Although socializing looks a lot different right now, there are still safe and fun ways to get in your social time. Setting up weekly Facetime, Zoom calls or classic phone calls with friends and family you don’t live with is a great way to do so. Whether you’re texting, making a call, or video chatting, finding a way to keep in contact with loved ones can greatly help during this time.
2. Celebrate the holidays together — even if you’re physically apart
The option to spend the holidays as we normally would — often traveling to family or friends, as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns against — is not recommended. But you can still celebrate together with these ideas: set up a distant white elephant game, make holiday desserts or decorate for the season together, virtually. While it’s not the same, it can still be a great way to connect and still enjoy this time of year.
3. Practice self-care
Now, more than ever, we should all be practicing self-care. Try to set up and maintain a daily routine complete with exercise, making healthy meals, staying hydrated and doing an activity that you find soothing or joyful.
4. Seek interactions within your social bubble
If you live with family, friends or roommates, now is the perfect time to strengthen your bond with them. Just because we don’t have the traditional options of hanging out with friends outside of our immediate bubble, or seeing distant family members, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy spending time with those who are close to us.
5. Consider your options
If you find that you’re struggling with SAD — especially during a pandemic — it’s important to consider your options. You do not simply have to ‘deal with it.’ We highly encourage you to talk to your doctor about therapy or medications and other helpful recommendations.
6. Maximize the light in your home
Many people begin to experience SAD because of the lack of light that the fall and winter months can bring. When you’re only surrounded by gloomy and dark days, your body can naturally revert to feelings of sadness. To combat this, getting in as much light as possible — whether opening your windows every day or using a lamp to produce artificial light to replicate the sun — can be extremely helpful.
How to stay safe during the holidays this year
This holiday season looks extremely different — and it’s important to take the necessary safety precautions to make sure that you can still enjoy the time in a safe, healthy and happy manner.
According to Harvard Health, we should all be focused on staying safe by doing the following:
- Consider having a virtual holiday experience — while it’s not ideal, it’s the safest way to go about the holidays.
- If you do choose to have a gathering, it’s essential to try to serve meals outdoors, in a socially distanced environment.
- If you’re traveling, you should quarantine for 10-12 days upon arrival, away from others.
- Wear an approved protective face mask.
- Consider getting a rapid PCR test both before and after any holiday gatherings.
“If you are going to be gathering in person, make sure that everyone is tested and has a negative result at least a few days beforehand, and advise those people to minimize any social contact the week or so before the gathering,” Abraar Karan, MD. says, “Also, encourage them all to wear masks consistently, especially when indoors around others. Thankfully, transmission on planes is extremely low as long as you are wearing a mask. But you need to be extra careful before and after the flight until you reach your destination.”
Despite these trying circumstances, we hope that you’re able to get into a more joyful emotionally healthy outlook and appreciate your holiday season.