Back to Top Skip to main content

Countering seasonal depression during the COVID-19 pandemic

Man with his head in his hands, sitting in front of a Christmas tree The holiday season can be a stressful time of year for many people. (Photo by Army Lt. Col. Keith Hickox, Joint Forces Headquarters, Pennsylvania National Guard.)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Wellness | Mental Health Care | Depression | Suicide Prevention

The recent winter holidays are traditionally seen as a time of celebration and gathering with friends and family.

However, many people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may already feel that December and the New Year is a time of depression and worry. As we look to 2021 still facing travel restrictions, social distancing, the possibility of sickness from COVID-19, and now uncertainty about a vaccine – those who suffer from SAD are apt to have an even more difficult time over these winter months."

SAD, or sometimes called seasonal depression, is a subtype of a major depressive disorder. According to a National Institutes of Health, symptoms of SAD are varied, and may include feeling depressed most of the day, changes in weight or appetite, feeling sluggish or agitated, social withdrawal (feeling like “hibernating”), oversleeping, feeling hopeless, and having difficulty concentrating.

Those suffering from SAD might find themselves extra stressed and worried about family members, travel, and finances, which can contribute to feelings of depression.

If the pandemic— coupled with SAD— have you feeling out of control, you’re not alone. The pandemic has made many people feel as if they are out of control. “Recognizing our lack of control can be an important first step in coping,” explained Army Capt. (Dr.) Jacob Eliason, a psychiatry resident at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Eliason encourages helpful lifestyle changes to help mitigate these symptoms. These include regular exercise, a healthy diet, and getting 8 hours of rest per night.

Sometimes, however, patients who experience more disruptive mood symptoms may benefit from therapy or antidepressants. “Vitamin D supplements are [also] occasionally used to treat seasonal depression,” Eliason continued.

He also suggested sunlight therapy on sunny days, “Both are typically inexpensive and low-risk treatments but should be undertaken on an individual basis under the guidance of a [healthcare] provider.”

Another way to combat seasonal depression is partaking in fun social activities. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and new social distancing guidelines throughout the country, this may be more difficult. The CDC has counseled people to maintain social distancing when possible, and to wear masks when distancing isn’t possible. Our loved ones may have medical concerns or issues we aren’t aware about, so their preference toward social distancing and mask wearing should be respected.

“In this time of year, when many of us spend time with people outside of our normal social sphere, it is important to have respectful and proactive communication with friends and family members about pandemic precautions,” said Eliason. “In fact, it is often easiest to set ground rules before social gatherings by contacting the host and letting them know what adjustments you are willing to make regarding mask wearing, food preparation, and seating arrangements.

For some people, it might mean being a little creative this season,” Eliason added.

Seasonal Depression and COVID-19 don’t have to stop us from enjoying family and friends during the pandemic. Even if we can’t be physically near, showing love and compassion to those closest to our hearts is important.  “Be willing to listen to [family and friends] if you sense they are struggling with their mental health,” said Eliason, adding that, “If low mood or anxiety continue to be disruptive, people should not hesitate to get in touch with a medical or behavioral health provider.”

You also may be interested in...

MHS Transformation results continue during COVID-19

Article
1/21/2021
Military personnel in a supply room, reaching for the top shelf

The MTF transition has enabled the DHA and the Services to increase standardization, eliminate duplicative contracts, and realize cost efficiencies by beginning the management of an enterprise-wide program.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | MHS Transformation

DOD recommends adults 75 and older should seek COVID-19 vaccine

Article
1/19/2021
Nursing home members, wearing masks, wait in a line to get their COVID vaccine

This age recommendation differs slightly from that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends vaccinations for those 65 and older.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Is It Your Time to Get the Vaccine? | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine for Adults Age 75 and Older

LTG Place Vaccine Roll-Out Video

Video
1/18/2021
DHA Seal

DHA Director LTG Ron Place talks about coronavirus vaccines, their safety and efficacy, and encourages everyone to do their own research to get vaccinated.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Partnerships, COVID-19 are catalysts for enterprise virtual health

Article
1/14/2021
Image of Mr. Adler with text: "Partnerships, COVID-19 are catalysts for enterprise virtual health."

Jamie Adler, the lead for the DHA’s Virtual Health Clinical Integration Office, discusses the future of virtual health (VH).

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Connected Health

COVID-19 hinders blood donations during National Blood Donor Month

Article
1/14/2021
Navy Capt. R. Wade Blizzard, commanding officer of U.S. Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia, donates blood for the Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Units Diego Garcia walking blood bank on Dec. 17, 2020. The walking blood bank is a list of eligible donors who can provide blood in case of emergency. (U.S. Navy photo by Navy Seaman Apprentice Stevin Atkins)

Life-saving blood is in high-demand by the Armed Services Blood Program, as the COVID-19 has negatively impacted donations.

Recommended Content:

Armed Services Blood Program | Public Health | Coronavirus | Holiday Observances

COVID presents new set of challenges for DOD environmental health

Article
1/12/2021
Group of Marines, snowshoeing through the snow

One of the most important factors to take into account when maintaining one’s overall fitness is physical environment.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness in a Pandemic | Reintroducing Total Force Fitness | January Toolkit | Coronavirus | Total Force Fitness

DOD Launches “My MilLife Guide” Text Message Program to Boost Wellness

Article
1/11/2021
The new My MilLife Guide program supports the wellness of the military community.

DoD has launched My MilLife Guide, a new program that sends text messages designed to help the military community boost overall wellness while navigating stresses related to COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health | Operation Live Well | Health Readiness

Navy corpsman provides multitude of support to hospital

Article
1/8/2021
Two military personnel, wearing masks, in a supply room looking at the shelves

“Thinking outside the box is what makes a great person, let alone a Sailor," Tie said.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus

MTF facilities, markets set to resume transition heading into 2021

Article
1/6/2021
A military nurse, wearing a mask, prepares a needle for a vaccination

Butler says transition on track.

Recommended Content:

MHS Transformation | Coronavirus

BACH healthcare workers and first responders vaccinated for COVID-19

Article
1/6/2021
Soldier gives a nurse a vaccine in her left arm

BACH now joins other Defense Health Agency military treatment facilities that have received the vaccine, marking the start of a phased-in vaccination program to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Toolkit

MHS operational innovations continue in battle against COVID-19

Article
1/5/2021
Two medical personnel, wearing full PPE, in an operating room

MHS innovations in 2020 include a new registry for real-time COVID-19 data and a system to free up hospital beds and protect patients from the disease.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Research and Innovation | Innovation | Technology

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Publication
1/5/2021

This toolkit provides communicators across the Military Health System (MHS) with important information about the COVID-19 prevention and vaccination from the CDC to share with patients and health care professionals.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Information for Military Treatment Facility Directors | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

COVID-19 Social Media Toolkit

Publication
1/5/2021

These messages are provided for you to use on your platforms with any of the images from the COVID-19 Toolkit.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Remote monitoring program enables COVID-19 patients to recover at home

Article
1/4/2021
Two medical personnel, wearing masks, looking at the contents of a home-based COVID treatment kit

The program equips COVID-19 patients needing additional monitoring with a home healthcare kit and 24/7 oversight from registered nurses to ensure a higher level of post-hospital care.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus | Innovation

DHA’s IT innovation continues during COVID-19 pandemic

Article
12/31/2020
Three military personnel, wearing masks, in front of a computer screen

IT innovations keep pace despite COVID-19 road blocks.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Research and Innovation | Technology | MHS GENESIS
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 32

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.