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Doctors warn seasonal depression could be a struggle amid COVID-19 restrictions

Doctors with the Cleveland Clinic are warning this fall and winter could be a real mental health struggle.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As the Carolinas head into the heart of fall, seasonal depression starts to set in for some with sunny days turning shorter and darker.

Doctors with the Cleveland Clinic are warning this fall and winter could be a real mental health struggle for people already feeling low-grade depression effects due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"If we're already feeling some helplessness, hopelessness, irritability, confinement and we add the winter months to it – short daylight hours, limited exposure to daylight; those that are experiencing seasonal affective disorder are going to really be challenged,” said Dr. Scott Bea, PsyD, a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic.

RELATED: Navigating emotions & mental health during hard times, dealing with stress

According to the Cleveland Clinic, approximately half a million people in the U.S. suffer from winter seasonal affective disorder, while 10 to 20 percent may suffer from a more mild form of winter blues.

Doctors suggest taking action now with a structured schedule, starting an exercise program, and maintaining social connections, either virtually or socially distanced outside.

“We know a good biological treatment for depression is called activity scheduling,” said Dr. Bea. “It doesn’t have a lot of appeal for people on the surface, but if you can schedule your days in blocks of time with meaningful, purposeful, recreational, interpersonal, connecting sorts of activities; commit yourself to those activities, that gets you out of your mind where a lot of the misery occurs, into your real life, and we know that that changes what our brain does biologically.”

Dr. Bea also said sitting in front of a therapy light for 30 minutes every day can also help fight off the seasonal depression when winter sets in.

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