SAD During COVID

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the periodic effect that gloomy weather can have on your mood. In Michigan, SAD can happen anywhere between our sometimes somberOctobers to the end of our dreary, wet Aprils. Sandwiched between the Great Lakes of Michigan, Huron, and Superior, our state is lucky to have some insulation from large storms by the bodies of water.


But the trade-off is grey, cloudy days for sometimes weeks at a time.


That greyness stinks. It also deprives us of a critical source of Vitamin D.


So it’s been a bit of a bright spot this winter of 2020-21 that we’ve had more than our usual fair share of sunny days (I’m saying this based on my completely non-scientific observation from my own windows). It’s crazy that 2020 was willing to throw us any kind of bone after all we had been through.


But while I’ve been working from home, schooling kids from home, serving my community as a Trustee from home, socializing from home, and shopping from home, I have at least had sunshine too. I even moved my desk from my usual spot to a sunnier, more window-adjacent spot.


I’ve been able to stave off my usual SAD thoughts that say the world will remain frozen until eternity and never warm again (I remember thinking this even when I was a child). The shorter days, the empty tree limbs, and the missing wildlife all contribute to this feeling of helplessly limping along in the cold until I succumb to hypothermia.


Where was I?


Oh, right, my SAD surprisingly hasn’t been too bad this year. Even with COVID in the mix.


Maybe all this being at home is actually good for me, for many of us. I was much more in tune with the changing of the seasons this year, the creeping up of darkness in the evening--even before Daylight Savings Time (who are we really saving it for anyway?).


And I’ve been able to really appreciate when the sun does shine. Don’t get me wrong--I’m not a sun-worshipper by any means. My ideal is a lightly breezy, 70-degree day with sporadic clouds. Not too hot. Not too cold. And definitely not too likely to burn my skin after 10 minutes.


Today, I actually left the house briefly. And I realized that my SAD was intensified by seeing all the snow (even as the sunshine filtered through my sunglasses) piled up in parking lots, around driveways, and on roadsides. It reminded me that it is winter; there is cold and snow; and it does pose a problem for mobility.


I had sort of taken a little SAD vacation in my own home where I didn’t have to bundle up to get into a cold car and drive on icy roads. The worst thing the snow has done is make my back deck steps a little icy and slippery for me and my dog. But even the threat of slipping doesn’t dampen my spirits as much as the reality that the snow extends farther than my backyard.


So even though I cannot wait for my kids to go back to school with trained teachers and their peers (“Mom! I spilled water on my keyboard! Mom! I fell off my chair!”), my little cocoon of home has turned out to be an advantage this winter. I can snuggle with my laptop in the sunshine. I can wear my warm sweatpants during a Zoom call. I can read through meeting agendas with my dog at my feet.


And I can appreciate that my SAD has been better this year. Which is a good thing because the pandemic echo is on the horizon. The emotional fallout of the stress of the past year is only going to get bigger before we all process the many ways the pandemic has changed our lives and the lives of those around us.


And winter will come again next year.


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