While we haven’t yet suffered through below-zero wind chills or an early season blizzard, winter is certainly on its way, and with it comes holiday stress, seasonal depression and — this year — concerns about COVID-19.
“The holiday can be a stressful time for people in general, closing out the year and having to plan for intense family travel,” said Inger Burnett-Zeigler, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “This year there’s the unique stress of being away from family.”
The decision to avoid family gatherings can be a point of conflict, Burnett-Zeigler said, but people need to hear each other out.
“It’s a situation where we have to recognize and appreciate where people are individually,” she said. “It’s important to meet people where they are and take steps that you yourself feel comfortable with as an individual to keep you and your family safe.”
Not being able to travel and spend time with loved ones can exacerbate winter stress. She recommends taking in the sunlight when you can and trying out new coronavirus-safe activities like light festivals.
Of course, with a vaccine rollout underway, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and while it’s difficult to know what the future will bring, people can continue to follow protocols from health professionals to keep their community safe.
“There is some indication that hope might be in front of us,” Burnett-Zeigler said.