Will this winter ever end? Having to spend extra time indoors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and its new variants can make the season feel even more isolating. And, though the days are technically getting longer, spring feels far away, thanks to the polar vortex affecting much of the country.
Shorter, colder, and darker days can wreak havoc on our body’s internal clock, making us less active. When circadian rhythms are off, our brains adjust, triggering changes in our hormones and fluctuations in sleep and appetite.
But just because you’re feeling low doesn’t necessarily mean you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, says Dr. Lee-Anne Gray, a clinical psychologist. “SAD results from light deprivation,” says Gray, who is the author of Self-Compassion for Teens. Though often associated with the colder, darker winter period, SAD is a form of depression not directly correlated to any specific season. It’s thought to affect about 5% of the population.
For many, the normal winter doldrums have been heightened this year. “The pandemic makes everything feel worse, including mental health problems of all sorts,” says Gray.