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Cold weather, icy streets and fewer hours of sunlight are just a few of the challenges that come along with wintertime. The uncertainty and potential for isolation associated with the COVID-19 health crisis add another layer to these regular seasonal challenges. While the holiday spirit and fun in the snow can be a reason to celebrate, the pandemic and winter season can take an emotional and physical toll on many people. For example, some individuals experience a specific kind of wintertime depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which may be compounded by the challenges of social distancing and staying at home. Below are some tips to help you navigate the season.

Woman with eye glasses walking a small distance apart from a younger woman outdoors, both wearing face masks
Stock photo. Posed by model.


Managing overall wellbeing

There’s evidence that people with impaired vision are more likely to experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) than fully sighted people1. On top of that, the COVID-19 crisis and social distancing policies in place have worsened anxiety and isolation around the world2. So during this season, it is important to be aware of and manage your mental health.

  • Stay connected with others to avoid feeling isolated. Even if you’re social distancing and cannot visit in person, stay in contact with loved ones via phone and internet. For example, plan a phone call or video chat on important holidays, and share experiences with them by reading the same book or playing a virtual game together. Click here for some tips on video chatting.
  • Find joy in the little things. Try maintaining optimism by focusing on positive aspects of life, whether that’s joy from a holiday movie or enjoying your favorite winter soup.
  • Remember that some sadness or grief is normal when adjusting to something new. You may have felt this way after being diagnosed with wet macular degeneration or when daily life changed during the pandemic. Share your feelings with your support system – you may be surprised to hear that they have experienced something similar. If these feelings are interfering with your daily life – if you’re having trouble sleeping, losing interest in things or have had a change in your appetite – be sure to talk with your healthcare provider.
Woman wearing glasses sitting next to man holding glasses while looking at laptop computer with doctor speaking on screen
Stock photo. Posed by model.


Managing physical health

It’s important to find ways to safely monitor and take care of your physical health, including continuing with wet macular degeneration treatment.

  • Put safety first when attending appointments. Review local guidance for COVID-19 to help plan for your appointments. If you are able to visit your doctor in person, consider asking a family member or friend to help with transportation, especially when roads are icy or it’s dark outside. Wearing a face mask, washing your hands regularly and sitting at least 6-feet apart can help you and your loved one to stay safe. If you are feeling sick, contact your doctor before going into the office.
  • Prioritize your eye doctor appointments. If you cannot visit your doctor in person because of local COVID-19 social distancing requirements or inclement weather, connect with your doctor via phone or video chat instead. If possible, it’s critical that you continue getting treatment and monitoring your condition. Click here to learn more about talking to your doctors.
  • Get creative during appointments. If your loved one is not able to join you in person at appointments because of the effects of the pandemic, get creative with technology so that they are still able to support you. Consider calling them and speaking on the phone during your appointment, if your doctor is comfortable with it. They can take notes and ask questions like they normally would in person. You can also take a notebook to your appointment or ask your doctor for written notes, if you’d prefer.
  • Use extra caution while driving or walking alone when it’s dark or the streets are unsafe. Bad weather can contribute to car accidents and lead to falls during walks. If possible, ask a loved one to join you or use public transportation if that’s a safe option in your community. When riding in the car with a loved one, sit in the back passenger-side seat and crack a window if possible. Be sure to wear a facemask and carry hand sanitizer with you.
  • Stay physically active. Regular physical activity can also help with your mental and physical health. Even on days it too cold or rainy to go outdoors, try to get moving indoors. Click here to see some tips for staying active, even when you’re at home.

 

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References

  1. Madsen HØ, Dam H, Hageman I. High prevalence of seasonal affective disorder among persons with severe visual impairment. Br J Psychiatry. 2016 Jan;208(1):56-61. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.114.162354. Epub 2015 Sep 3. PMID: 26338990.
     
  2. Salari N, Hosseinian-Far A, Jalali R, et al. Prevalence of stress, anxiety, depression among the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Global Health. 2020;16(57). doi: 10.1186/s12992-020-00589-w
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