During the winter time, many people experience seasonal affective disorder, which is characterized by depressive episodes that are associated with there being less sunlight which subside during the spring and fall. According to the American Psychiatric Association, people are most likely to experience this during January and February. This winter, people who are vulnerable or already experiencing S.A.D may be experiencing a double whammy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Being in isolation and living in restrictive conditions can lead to “quarantine fatigue.” According to Dr. Luana Marques, quarantine fatigue is an “exhaustion associated with the new restrictive lifestyle that’s been adopted to slow the spread of COVID-19” and the symptoms include:
- Feeling tense, irritable or anxious.
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits.
- Loss of motivation or reduced productivity.
- Racing thoughts.
- Interpersonal conflict.
- Social withdrawal.
According to the Diagnostic Statistics Manual Fifth Edition, seasonal depressive disorder symptoms include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.
- Changes in appetite; usually eating more, craving carbohydrates.
- Change in sleep; usually sleeping too much.
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue despite increased sleep hours.
- Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing) or slowed movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable to others).
- Feeling worthless or guilty.
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
There’s also the “Zoom fatigue,” which “describes the tiredness, worry, or burnout associated with overusing virtual platforms of communication,” the Psychiatric Times noted.
Due to the conditions we are living in, your mental health is taking jab after jab. The level of stress we are all enduring isn’t what we were used to and due to the quarantine, we cannot also resort to the coping skills we once used. As a therapist, I recommend seeking therapy immediately if you feel you are experiencing symptoms of both seasonal affective disorder and quarantine fatigue. While seasonal affective disorder can subside in the warmer months, I can’t tell you when your quarantine fatigue will decrease because no one knows when quarantining and social distancing will be a thing of the past. One disorder may not be an issue come May but the exhaustion, irritability and anxiety associated with quarantine can still be present, so I recommend seeking help.
Since we are isolated, I recommend group therapy. Group therapy is effective because it creates a feeling of universality among its members along with a solid feeling of togetherness, something we can all use during isolation. Some states aren’t as restrictive as New York City, where I am located, so you may even be able to find a socially distanced group therapy option depending on where you are located. You can visit Therapy For Black Girls, Psychology Today and Ayana Therapy to explore your options.
Personally, I can say listening to podcasts has been extremely helpful. Hearing the voices of my favorite podcasters gives a certain comfort that is much needed during these rough times. If you need suggestions, I highly recommend “The Read” and “The Friend Zone.”
Folloing certain social media accounts that focus on improving and maintaining good mental health are beneficial as well. There’s a platform called Ethel’s Club, “a Black-owned social and wellness club designed to celebrate people of color” that offers virtual workouts, creative workshops, healing sessions, question and answer sessions and “wellness salons.”
Brown Girl Self Care’s account offers daily affirmations, resources and events, including a vision board party that will happening on January 30.