Here’s how to steer clear of seasonal depression in the midst of a pandemic.
The COVID-19 virus caused government officials to order a summer quarantine period of three months. The lack of outside activity, interaction with friends and loved ones has caused many Americans to sink into depression and anxiety.
Isolation, loneliness and fear of catching the virus have only fueled Americans’ deteriorating mental health. Winter can also cause seasonal depression, and many are affected without realizing it. The gloomy weather, the sun setting at 5 p.m. and the cold temperatures all contribute to seasonal depression.
The Center for Disease Control put out a survey in June and found that most American adults have “reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19.” The CDC also said that “younger adults, racial and ethnic minorities and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionally worse mental health outcomes, increased substance abuse and elevated suicidal ideation.”
Personally, I relate to this because I have struggled with my mental health for over five years. In the fall of 2019, I overdosed in an attempt to take my life. After I overdosed and I felt my body begin to feel different, I knew that I had made a mistake even though I thought it was the way I could make my sadness go away at the time.
I was in a long-term battle with depression and anxiety that drove me to my suicide attempt. I couldn’t keep trying to pretend everything was okay around my friends and family. After a few medication changes and therapy, I began to make progress with my mental health. I learned to love myself through the baby steps I made from the beginning. It took a change in my diet, a daily workout and social activities to feel “normal” again. If you have experienced anxiety, then it’s likely you have felt social anxiety. This type of anxiety can be described as a constant dread or uneasiness when you meet new people, go out in public or even hang out with friends. For me, I’m always doubting what I say and do socially. Sometimes, I can’t even pinpoint why I feel panicky or sick to my stomach about these things. They weighed so heavily on me that I was in tears. But eventually, the tears stopped coming.
When COVID-19 spread across the U.S. and classes moved online in the spring, my mental health dipped down again. It felt like all the progress I had made began to slip because I was more alone and sad than I had been in a long time. Everyone around me was scared, and it only fueled my terror. I was working at a part-time job and isolated from my family for months. Even my workouts and eating healthy became a challenge because I was scared to leave my own home. But I realized that even in the midst of everyone losing loved ones and jobs, I had my health, a job and my family members to be thankful for. I took this mentality of gratitude and used it in my favor. Through this wake of death and fear, I learned that everyone has experienced some kind of anxiety because of COVID-19.
Our struggles are significant and different no matter where we are, but no one is completely alone. Even if you feel like no one can understand your pain, help is always there. But you have to be willing to reach for it. Our strength comes from inside of us when we learn to love ourselves and get through our darkest of days. Despite the social stigma of mental illness, going to therapy does not mean that anything is wrong with you. It’s brave of anyone to admit that they need professional counseling. You begin to heal after you can name the things that hurt you.
I am here to tell you that no matter how hard life gets, amazing people are willing to help you. Everyone deals with anxiety and depression in different ways. A person who battles mental health issues does not always appear as a sad person with their hood up, it could easily be a person with a smile on their face and a spring in their step. Don’t make the mistakes I made and isolate yourself completely or shut down emotionally, to the point you consider something like self-harm or suicide. Reaching out for help is a big part of the healing process.
Whether you’re in quarantine or feeling hopeless, you can make the choice for the betterment of your life and mental health by reaching out to Counseling Services or Student Life. Here’s my advice if you’re not ready to make that call right away.
- Talk to Your Doctor: You don’t always have to see a therapist for mental health medication. Check with your provider to see if they can prescribe medication for your mental health.
- Exercise and Fresh Air: In the winter season, it can be hard to go outside, but studies have shown that fresh air can help fight the virus. Exercise increases your heart rate and pumps more oxygen to your brain. Go on a walk, practice yoga poses or just sit on your porch to give your brain a break.
- Enjoy the Little Things: If you’re feeling bored, try learning to knit or sew, work on holiday craft projects, or start a new show with your friends virtually on an app like Kast. I just started watching “Gossip Girl” for the first time, it’s so juicy. Ask your mom or roommates if you can help cook delicious yet healthy food for dinner. Instead of sleeping through most of the day or locking yourself in your room with your feelings, try lighting your favorite candle or turn on upbeat music to put away the clothes on your floor. Cherish the small moments within your day to remind yourself to be thankful for the little things.
- Talk to Family, Friends or Anyone: Starting a conversation about your mental health struggles is never easy, but start with someone you trust. If your family members aren’t willing to listen, understand and give you ideas to help you feel better, it’s time to check in with a friend or other trusted adult. Social anxiety can make these conversations 10 times harder, but with the right person, you’ll be able to get out of your head and focus on what you need to do to get help. Have this conversation over FaceTime, that way you can convey your emotions and get feedback from your friend without interruptions.
- Positive Vibes: Constantly scrolling through social media or online news forums can have a negative impact on your mind. News pertaining to deaths from COVID-19 or politics tend to make you feel worse instead of better. It’s okay to want to stay up-to-date on everything, but remember to take a break to stay sane. Watch a funny video or play a game with your friends to get your mind off things that worry you.
While COVID-19 and seasonal depression may cause us to feel alone, it doesn’t have to be permanent.
If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. A counselor is available to talk with you 24/7. K-State Counseling services are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. When Counseling Services is closed, mental health consultation is available any time by calling the office number at 785-532-6927. You are valued and important.