Will Seasonal Affective Disorder Arrive Early During COVID?

Winter… ready or not, here it comes!

With winter comes beautiful snow falls, cozy sweaters, and warm cups of cocoa around the fireplace. But let’s be real, winters can also be long, dark, and take a toll on our mental health.

People often describe getting “winter blues,” also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, and experiencing feelings of sadness, changes in mood, low energy, and difficulty sleeping. In addition to the change in season, the uncertainty that comes with the Coronavirus pandemic might add stress and have negative impacts on our health, schooling, work-life balance, and ability to get a good night’s sleep.

sunshine and your health

With this in mind, now is the time to begin preparing ourselves for the effects of these seasonal changes and continued social isolation related to Covid-19 in the winter months. Ways to fight against symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • Get as much outdoor time and sunlight as possible
  • Find creative ways to stay connected with loved ones
  • Exercise
  • Practice good sleep hygiene

Another way to help manage “winter blues” and increased stressors, is taking the right vitamins and supplements. Vitamin D is sometimes known as “the sunshine vitamin” due to its production in the body in response to sunlight. Vitamin D helps our immune system fight off disease and builds healthy bones. But did you know, vitamin D is also linked to improved mood and reducing symptoms related to depression?

hello sunshine

Vitamin D and Depression

Researchers have found links between vitamin D deficiencies and increased levels of anxiety and depression. Studies show that individuals taking vitamin D reported a decrease in their depression. Because increasing your sun exposure during the winter months is difficult, taking a vitamin D supplement may be a healthy alternative to getting that needed dose of sunshine. Vitamin D can also be found in foods such as:

  • fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna
  • egg yolks
  • cheese
  • beef liver
  • mushrooms
  • fortified milk
  • fortified cereals and juices


vitamin d supplements

Can Vitamin D Supplements Help Fight Depression?

Health professionals recommend taking magnesium along with your vitamin D to help support your body in absorbing the vitamin and receiving its full benefits. Taking vitamin D and magnesium supplements are best paired with other practices, such as those listed above, to help treat depression.

When considering taking vitamin D and magnesium, be sure to consult with your doctor to ensure you take the correct amount and consider all potential effects to your individual health.

How do you plan to combat winter blues? Do you take any vitamins or supplements that are helpful for your mood and overall health?

This blog was written by Sentier therapist, Tana Welter, MSW

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Virtual School Survival Kit for 2020

school post covid-19

The school year is underway, and as expected, it has been hard! Whether you have sent your kiddos back to school in person, or are trying distance learning, this school year has been unlike any year before.

Unfortunately, there is no magic wand that will make this virtual learning school year completely pain-free but here a few tools that could help:

  1. Set up a “school space”
  2. Back to school shopping.
  3. Set your child up for success.
  4. Emotions chart
  5. Patience

Set up a “school space”
There’s no need to search through Pinterest for hours on how to set up the ideal remote learning environment and create a space that is designated just for school time. This allows your kiddo to “go to school”/get in the mindset of school and be able to leave the stress of school at the end of their work periods. Let your kid have some choice over what goes into the space, maybe they get to pick out which chair they want, the headphones they use for their zoom calls, or a picture on the wall. This could help them get excited for an unexpected school year.

Back to school shopping.

If you haven’t already and it is in your budget, go back to school shopping. This could be done virtually (yay for online shopping!) or masked up at the store. Back to school shopping is a tradition in many families and may help your child feel some sense of normalcy about returning to school. This will also encourage your child to “get ready” for school each day, which is important so your child can feel their best when school starts.

Set your child up for success.

As we have all learned over the past several months, sitting in front of a long zoom call can be hard. Support you kiddo in staying regulated by setting them up with some tools.

  • Yoga ball or Chair band. Sitting still is hard work, giving your child a way to move their body while they work online can support them in staying engaged. For a list of options check out hobbr.com.
  • Play-Doh/putty. Having something to move in your hands can make listening a lot easier. Consider some Play-Doh or putty for your child to work with while they listen in their school meetings.
  • Gum and crunch snacks. Gum can support kids in staying regulated and focused. An alternative if you are worried about where the gum might end up is crunchy snacks! Try veggie straws or carrot sticks.

chair band for kids  kids yoga ball

Emotions chart.

Consider hanging an emotion chart somewhere in your child’s school space. From the challenges of online learning to complications with internet connection speeds, this year is going to bring up a lot of emotions and children don’t always have the words to express these. Support them in their social and emotional learning as well as their academics! With a quick google search you can find all sorts of different feelings charts.

emotions chart


Have patience with your child, your child’s teacher, and most importantly with yourself. This is hard on everyone! Get extra support for yourself and your child(ren) when needed.

What are you doing to make this school year a success for yourself and your child?

Blog written by Annalise John, MSW, LICSW

Home/About this blog

Families are our passion! Sentier Psychotherapy is a group of therapists in St. Paul, MN who work with all ages of clients. We all write entries and respond to comments that you leave us.  We use this blog to share parenting tips, information about family therapy and adolescent/teen counseling, and many other things. Much of this blog is dedicated to teenagers and parenting teenagers because we spend a great deal of time helping teens and families of teens. We typically write about topics that can’t be ignored in our practice. We can’t ignore these topics because many of you come to us to discuss these issues.

Please check back periodically if these topics are of interest to you. We’d love to hear your thoughts about the topics I write about or requests that you might have for our next blog post. Please email me directly if you have a subject area that you would like me to blog about: msigmon[at]sentiertherapy[dot]com

Megan Sigmon-Olsen, M.S.W., LICSW
670 South Cleveland Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55116


Sentier Psychotherapy Stillwater MN

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