Skip to main content

Military Health System

Important Notice about Pharmacy Operations

Change Healthcare Cyberattack Impact on MHS Pharmacy Operations. Read the statement to learn more. 

Countering seasonal depression during the COVID-19 pandemic

Image of 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.)

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...

Topic
Feb 8, 2024

Military Health System Mental Health Hub

The Military Health System has many resources available to help service members, families, or veterans who are struggling with mental health challenges.

Article Around MHS
Jan 26, 2024

Conquering Winter Blues: A Personal Triumph

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kaitlin Castillo, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs journeyman, poses for a portrait illustrating seasonal affective disorder at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Jan. 17, 2024. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Kaitlin Castilo)

When the hustle and bustle of the holiday season begins to slow, a silent snowfall signals the start of another isolated winter night. This is sometimes known as seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder.

Article Around MHS
Jan 12, 2024

Love, Death, and Regrowth

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alex Briley, a perianesthesia technician assigned to the 673d Surgical Operations Squadron, poses for a portrait at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Briley uses her personal experiences to help advocate for improved mental health, suicide awareness, and resilience amongst service members. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Patrick Sullivan)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alex Briley met the love of her life shortly after arriving at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, her first duty station. After her husband died by suicide, her path to wellness wasn’t a quick or easy one, but she was able to find support in the people and resources around her.

Fact Sheet
Dec 14, 2023

PTSD and Other Stress-Related Disorders Following Concussion/Mild TBI Fact Sheet

.PDF | 542.68 KB

Co-occurring concussion and stress-related disorders, including PTSD, are common among service members. This fact sheet defines concussion, also known as mild traumatic brain injury, and provides an overview of common stress-related disorders, the overlapping symptoms, and how to manage those symptoms.

DHA Publication
Nov 28, 2023

DHA Policy Memo: #23-014, Military Medical Treatment Facility Management of Self-Initiated Referral Process for Mental Health Evaluations of Service Members

.PDF | 176.30 KB
Provides information and guidance on military medical treatment facility procedures for a process that enables Service members to trigger a referral on their own for a mental health evaluation through a commanding officer or supervisor in a grade above E-5.
  • Identification #: 23-014
  • Type: DHA Policy Memo
Article
Nov 22, 2023

Ask the Doc: Mental Health Tips for You or a Loved One

Ask the Doc: Mental Health Tips for You or a Loved One

In this edition of Ask the Doc, we get expert advice from retired U.S. Public Health Service Capt. (Dr.) Joshua Morganstein, deputy director at the Center for Study of Traumatic Stress in the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and vice chair of the University’s department of psychiatry, on ways to address mental health concerns when you, ...

Last Updated: September 28, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery