Nearly a year after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, infections are still on the rise. The United Kingdom has so far tallied 1.5 million positive cases and, every day, thousands are added. As a result, Britain once again is entering a lockdown to slow the spread of the virus and, hopefully, prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.
Britons have to spend winter inside their own homes, apart from family and barred to meet friends. There might be no parties this year, and no one is traveling to tropical destinations for vacation.
The Winter Blues
Winter is a trigger for many people who experience seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD.
No one knows exactly what causes the condition, but some theorize that the lack of sunlight causes people to become lethargic and, overall, unhappy. The presence or absence of sunlight affects the release of different hormones within the body. When you spend time under the sun, your brain produces serotonin responsible for picking your mood up. On the other hand, when it is dark outside, your brain increases melatonin levels, which makes you ready for sleep.
SAD, therefore, can be reduced by keeping the windows open. During the colder seasons, shutters, similar to what you can get from Shuttersup, will allow you to control the amount of sunlight that enters the room while keeping your home private. Winter usually diminishes the amount of time people spend outdoors and, because the wind is chilly, they tend to keep the windows shut. The easy solution is to eliminate the curtains that block the little sunlight that shines during the period between December to February.
A Second Lockdown Can Worsen SAD
This year is different. There is a pandemic that is still far from simmering down. As the last weeks of 2020 approaches, many European places saw an intense second wave of COVID-19. Countries are forcing people to remain at home again for a couple of weeks up to several months. Experts fear that this will make the symptoms worse for people who experience SAD.
The pandemic has already caused an epidemic of mental health issues in the U.K. One recent survey found that as many as four out of 10 men struggled with their mental health in the last six months. Nearly half of the 1,500 respondents felt that they have no one to talk to because of the stay-in-place orders.
It is not just men. The entire population is experiencing adverse effects of the pandemic on their mental well-being.
The Centre for Mental Health estimates that up to 10 million people in England will need mental health support due to the pandemic.
Aside from being locked indoors, the pandemic is also preventing people from seeking professional help. Although telemedicine exists, some people prefer the safe space provided by a psychiatrist’s office.
Also, socializing and exercise are part of the treatment for SAD. Movement will be greatly impacted by stay-in-place orders, which can make symptoms of mental health disorders worse.
It is Not a Hopeless Situation
It will be a tough couple of weeks as the U.K. continues to grapple with COVID-19, and the lack of sunlight makes portions of the population struggle from SAD. While it seems like a hopeless situation and people feel more alone, there ways to prevent and manage winter blues during the second lockdown.
There has been evidence that suggests that light therapy, in which the patient sits in front of a brightly lit box, can improve SAD. This strategy had been in use for the treatment of the condition since the ‘80s. It would not hurt to try it since it does not require special supervision.
Spending about 30-45 minutes can improve symptoms. Patients are also encouraged to use the time to practice mindfulness. Meditation can clear your mind, relax your body, and make you more resilient to stress.
Public health experts also said that taking vitamin D supplements, which you only get from sunlight, might improve SAD. However, findings from studies regarding the benefits of supplementation as treatment for the condition is mixed.
More importantly, as soon as you feel symptoms of the disorder manifest, speak to your therapist. The most common treatment for SAD is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which aims to change your negative reactions to environmental factors.
The U.K. should brace for a long and rough winter ahead. While they remain at home to help the NHS, they should adopt strategies to take good care of their mental health, too.