AURORA (CBS4) – As many in Colorado are experiencing feelings of frustration and fatigue after months of navigating through the pandemic, experts are urging caution as another mental health situation emerges: Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
Shorter, darker, and colder days can have a profound impact, even here in our sunny state.
“I want to validate that this is truly a difficult time for a lot of people,” UCHealth Licensed Clinical Social Worker Andrea Lawrence told CBS4’s Mekialaya White on a Zoom call. “Whether you’ve experienced mental health issues before or just now experiencing them due to COVID, the compound of seasonal depression is something that we should be aware of and prepared for.”
Her Castle Rock clinic has been especially busy as of recent, which she says speaks to how many Coloradans are in the same boat. “I’m seeing a lot of people where in the beginning they were like alright, batten down the hatches, but now people are over it and frustrated because we really don’t have a time line. COVID is just kind of running in the background constantly. I relate it to an app on your iPhone that constantly updates, like COVID is always in the background so it’s really depleting us and wearing us down.”
Lawrence says symptoms of SAD and pandemic depression are cut from the same cloth. Coupled together, those feelings are exacerbated. “You may have a day where you just sit on the couch and that’s okay. But when it’s happening for prolonged periods of time, you experience things like being isolated, weight gain, hopelessness, helplessness feelings. When you’re starting to notice your daily activities, you’re not bathing, not taking care of home, not able to attend to work or social engagements which are already pretty restricted, this is when you need to have an honest conversation with your physician.”
That initial step doesn’t always come easy, either. “Mental health is something that we really need to pay attention to. But it is hard making that first appointment, having that first session with a therapist, that’s the hardest part is acknowledging that it’s a thing.”
Being kind to yourself is key, she adds. There are also small steps you can take to help re-energize your daily routines.
“Getting exposure to the sun during the day, getting exercise. Eating nutritious foods, staying connected with friends and family whether that’s through zoom or a socially distanced appropriate outdoor meeting. These things sound really simple, but they’re really crucial right now.”
To connect with Lawrence, or find a health care provider, click here: https://www.uchealth.org/provider/andrea-lawrence-lcsw-aasw/