Dr. Colleen Cira is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who specializes in Women and Trauma, and has worked with hundreds of people struggling with mental health issues.
Talking Points from Dr. Cira
On Seasonal Affective Disorder:
The question of whether or not more people are being affected by SAD/Depression due to COVID is an easy one to answer: YES. 1,000% yes. People who have never experienced mental health issues in their lifetime are experiencing difficulties now due to COVID, so for people who are already prone to SAD/Depression, this is even more difficult.
COVID makes life harder for so many reasons:
- Worry/Sadness. People may be worried about their own health/safety, the health and safety of loved ones or just worried about the state of the world due to COVID. COVID gives us LOTS of reasons to worry, unfortunately.
- Isolation. While safety precautions and quarantine are necessary to get this virus under control, the isolation these regulations impose is profound. People who live alone have never felt more lonely. Children do not have the social engagement they need to properly facilitate their growth and development. Parents are left without the support they have become accustomed to whether that’s their families, neighbors and/or communities at large. Seniors, who desperately need social connections and engagement are suffering tremendously.
- Unhealthy Coping. When you combine stress with isolation/lack of support, it’s a setup for disaster because it makes coping well very difficult. People who are prone to drug or alcohol use start to increase their use or fall off the wagon. People who are prone to violence begin to have a shorter fuse and blow up more. People with SAD/Depression who might struggle with suicidal ideation might start to think about that more. Children might begin to have more tantrums, engage in a more oppositional way or withdraw/isolate.
Now that we know that COVID makes everything harder for very good reasons, here are some things you can do to take better care of yourself:
- Feel it! The first absolute must do when it comes to working through feelings is to feel them. Get to know them. Identify what the feeling is. Sit with the feeling. Write about the feeling. Crying or yelling about the feeling. Talk to a trust friend about the feeling. Just accept it for what it is and be with it before you do anything else. If you fight the feelings, everything becomes like quicksand: the harder you fight, the deeper you sink.
- Once you’ve really felt it, get curious about it. What am I feeling so strongly about? Do I miss my family? Am I lonely in general? Is it less about me and more about them where I’m worried about disappointing them or making them angry? If so, is that something I often experience with them? With everyone? Get curious about your experience and figure out what’s going on there.
- Act on your feelings.Once you have really felt your feelings and better understand why you feel the way you do, now you can do something about it! Two ways to do this:
- Engage in more self care than usual: drink water, get more sleep than usual, get outside and in nature, move your body, be mindful of what you are putting in your mouth and if it’s serving you (food, alcohol, other substances), do things you enjoy and connect with people you love.
- Engage in deep relaxation as a way to regulate your nervous system: mindfulness, meditation, solitude with silence, diaphragmatic breathing, yoga, etc.
These are just a few thoughts Dr. Cira has on creating a foundation for good mental health during the Holidays, but can elaborate and offer more practical suggestions.
Available for Interviews: Dr. Colleen Cira
Dr. Colleen D. Cira, Psy.D. received both her Masters and Doctorate from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology and has been practicing in the field since 2001. Dr. Cira is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and the Founder and Executive Director of Cira Center for Behavioral Health, PC a boutique group practice with locations in Chicago and Oak Park that specializes in Women’s Issues/Health and Trauma. Dr. Cira is a trauma and anxiety expert, clinical supervisor, writer, speaker, consultant, activist, wife, and Mommy to two little ones.
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