Together, the pandemic and the holiday blues may pack a punch to our mental health
Despite the plethora of warmth, love and joy that typically surround the last two months of the year, these holidays can be a looming cloud for some. Feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and more this time of year are known as holiday depression. With COVID-19 forcing on-campus students to extend their stays back home, many of them are vulnerable now more than ever.
Different from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the holiday blues is much more situational. The feelings of melancholy are directly associated with the stresses of the pending holidays themselves and is psychologically based. SAD has more to do with an individual’s biology.
The top stressors from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day are lack of time and money, commercialism, family gatherings and the pressures of gift-giving, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association. Now, factor in the peaks of anxiety and depression that seem to go hand in hand with the COVID-19 pandemic. Pressures from health officials to stay home, uncertainties regarding the virus’ spread, and economic hardships have only intensified since our nation’s first lockdown some six months ago. As annual Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas traditions now get planned via Zoom, the isolation will wear many down, especially those already suffering from depression.
“I haven’t seen most of my family that’s not immediate since the beginning of the pandemic,” second-year Florida A&M student Tianna Hightower said. “For me, what keeps me afloat when I’m not doing well mentally is surrounding myself with my family members and this year I won’t really have that option.”
As college students, we usually travel home for Thanksgiving, then return to campus for about two weeks before returning for Christmas break. This year, in efforts to keep students safe, FAMU’s residence halls will close at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 25 and will not reopen until Monday, Jan. 4 at 9 a.m. Students were able to report extenuating circumstances and if approved, stay until Dec. 13. Either way, the end of this semester introduces a longer stay at home than what everyone is used to around the holidays.
“I will have to adjust myself being home for a month and a half extensively being that I will be still taking classes and I have to be considerate of other people in the house and ensuring I’m not being a disruption,” Jacksonville native Armani Jones said.
Even from their hometown, students can go to certain measures to combat negative feelings this winter. Lata McGinn, a psychology professor at Yeshiva University is well versed on the cause and remedy for these emotions. McGinn recommends keeping up with an activity that can bring a sense of accomplishment to every day.
“If your COVID-19 risk ratio makes you uncomfortable and you have a hard time doing that, then make sure you create enough activities that would help you go outside the house even if it is winter, and go out in the daylight as much as possible,” McGinn said.