Doctor warns of 'unprecedented winter' as SAD meets COVID-19

The next six months are a concerning time for doctors as it relates to COVID-19 and mental health, looking ahead to winter.

Sometimes fresh air and sunshine are exactly what's needed. 

"I said to my friend, 'I need a walk,'" said Jean Pereles-Strouse. "We are on a shiva walk because my mother passed away of COVID. I can't have people over. She just passed away on Sunday."

Getting outdoors, doctors say, is effective in tending to mental health, especially during these upcoming months. 

Dr. Shilagh Mirgain

"We are facing an unprecedented winter where many people are vulnerable to experience SAD, or winter blues," said Dr. Shilagh Mirgain, a psychologist with UW Health

With the seasons changing, Daylight Saving on Halloween, darker days and colder temperatures are just some of what can trigger winter blues.

"With the political divisiveness, the pandemic persisting, the uncertainty of what's to come, the holidays are going to be different -- where there might not be gatherings with friends and family. There is increasing isolation and loneliness," said Dr. Shilagh.

Dr. Mirgain said that can lead to SAD -- a type of depression. 

"Seasonal Affective Disorder impacts between 4-6% of the population, but 10-20% experience a milder form," said Dr. Mirgain.

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For people to stay happier and healthier this winter, she suggests developing a "COVID-19 Winter Resilience Toolkit" which includes

  • Be active 
  • Shift your focus
  • Stay connected 
  • Get outside
  • Engage in self-care
  • Perhaps take a Vitamin D3 supplement