The Globe’s Point: Coping with seasonal depression during a pandemic

Pittsburgh weather is iconically consistent. Some highlights include scattered rays of sunshine attempting to break through dreary, gray clouds, wind cold enough to freeze your fingers after 20 minutes, and black ice slick enough to take you out when you least expect it. Needless to say, it is miserable to venture outside right now, so many of us sit in our dorms, apartments, or houses staring at the inhospitable conditions from the safety of our abodes and find ourselves just as despondent as what we see outside. 

Seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), can hit some students hard in any typical semester, let alone one where they are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. 

While seasonal depression is being discussed more widely now than in years before, the symptoms often go unrecognized. After all, symptoms of low energy, feelings of listlessness, appetite changes, and difficulty concentrating could easily be reactions attributed to our current situations in this pandemic, which has brought so much social upheaval and distress to our lives. And a significant portion of the student body is taking classes all remotely, decreasing the frequency in which they leave their residences and their ability to take their mind off of their condition. 

Historically, institutions at all levels have struggled to accommodate those dealing with mental health issues, relying on neurotypical behavior as the expected standard. Students affected by SAD or any other conditions and disorders can be left feeling unacknowledged and that there are no resources available to help with their struggles. 

While there is no cure-all for SAD, there are ways to mitigate it, Pioneers. The National Institute of Health recommends light therapy (which entails literally being exposed to a light to increase happiness), talk therapy, medications if prescribed or recommended by a doctor, and taking Vitamin D. Point Park has recently offered a four-week Mindfulness Class and Drop-In Mindfulness Workshop to assist students with their mental wellbeing. If students are so affected by SAD that it impacts their schoolwork or they require accommodations, they can register for disability services through Point Park’s Disability Services office. Some have found even opening up about their experiences with SAD can at least limit the amount of isolation they feel about their condition. 

There is no doubt it will be a rough semester ahead of us mentally. Without a spring break, there is no period of time in which we can reset. Pittsburgh weather is notoriously fickle, only turning warm towards the end of April, just around when we are finishing up exams. So we will have to deal with COVID-19 and SAD throughout the coming months. 

However you decide to handle SAD this semester, Pioneers, just know you are definitely not alone.