Winter Words to Ponder

July 18, 2021

BY-Kayla Seitz, MSW, APSW Therapist at Arrow Behavioral Health Services, LLC.  

January 29, 2021

Wintertime comes with the pleasantries of cozy fires, warm socks, hot cocoa, holiday lights and songs, the smell of pine, snow days, and animals in cute sweaters. I know at least in my lifetime, there has been variable changes to this, sometimes snow—other times none—however, I can say that the unexpected change this winter of COVID-19 was something not so pleasant, and definitely not anything society pictured would impact our winter as it has.

Wintertime brings in a piece of expected hope for the new year as we transition from frigid weather to the beauty of blossoming springtime, to the sweltering heat of summer that brings a wave of vacation and Vitamin D from sunshine. Unlike wintertime past, we now have lackluster enthusiasm for spring as we once did. Hope is something that often many of us during the pandemic struggle to find. With the idea that COVID-19 may never end, and the loneliness and angst that comes from this thought, it is no surprise we all are suffering from something we’ve dubbed the COVID Blues.

We are at a particularly difficult time to manage the stress of COVID-19, as we have an increase in episodes of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or sometimes referred to as, seasonal depression all over the world. The stress of dealing with all of the changes from the pandemic, and the depression and anxiety that comes with little sunlight here in the Midwest; these symptoms blend together. With a “snowball” effect occurring (pun intended) we find ourselves feeling more fatigued than usual, feeling keyed-up or on edge that something bad might be lurking around the corner, having more difficulty getting up out of bed to do daily tasks, wanting to hide under the blankets from responsibilities, and increasing our isolation even more so than what is expected.

In a world where there is difficulty finding hope, let me help to first validate and acknowledge how unrelenting this pandemic has become and the havoc that it has reaped on all of our lives. I provide this acknowledgement because so many of us will just try to “power through” or avoid extra support due to stigma or the expectation that what we are feeling is “just a phase.” Maybe before that worked, maybe the hope we held for spring flowers, showers, and sunshine pulled us through; but perhaps today—yesterday—and even tomorrow—it might not be enough.

Allow me to shed some light on how the world is dealing with the pandemic and wintertime so far:

Nearly 20% of people diagnosed with COVID-19 experience symptoms of depression or a decline in mental health. Since 2017, the United States has had some of the highest rates of reported mental health concerns, averaging to 1 in 5 people reporting difficulties (National Institute of Mental Health, 2020)Social isolation, anxiety related to pandemic spread, loss of financial support, risks of losing shelter, loss of nutritional support, and the many other impacts COVID-19 has historically been linked to poorer mental health outcomes

What these stats mean, is that 1 in 5 of us, and possibly more now, are experiencing a winter like we’ve never experienced before; with a storm not made of snow, but a blizzard made of ruthless fear of the unknown.

This is not an end to our story though. Hope is buried, but with support, it can be once again found to shower us again in warmth and comfort. So how do we get back to hope again?  Here is a list of some possible things, albeit not a complete list, but a start:

  • Increasing your intake of sunshine, Vitamin D has shown to boost mood
  • Televisits with friends and family
  • Practicing self-care such as drawing a bath, reading your favorite book, or preparing your favorite meals
  • Exercise
  • Phone calls or letters to loved ones, or even to your local nursing home or children’s hospital
  • Joining an online support group Attending religious/spiritual/cultural events (safely of course)Spending time with a pet
  • Meditations and breathing exercises
  • Keeping a journal to identify thoughts, feelings, and actions as a result of those thoughts and feelings
  • Talking to a therapist
  • Speaking to your physician about medications

With a little bit of hope and support, we will all come out braver, stronger, and more beautiful just as spring and summer proves each year.As always, if you or someone you know are struggling with changes and feel as if you need extra support this season, reach out and we would be happy to connect you with someone who can support you and assist you in your journey to self-empowerment and wellness. We have immediate openings for both in-person and telehealth sessions.

On behalf of Arrow Behavioral Health, we wish everyone a safe and hopeful year.