Waiting for the sun

SPU students discuss struggling with seasonal depression during pandemic

Emma Brown, Staff Reporter

Illustration by Micky Flores-Nieves

As February settles in, so do gray skies and drab winter conditions. Just like the weather, seasonal depression has cast a gloom over many people’s lives, who are already having to cope with isolation and loneliness because of COVID-19. 

In a normal year, this season can be difficult enough, but the pandemic has only added more struggles. The isolation has left people feeling dejected and lonely, with few opportunities to connect with loved ones. While freshman mechanical engineering major Spencer Raymond has dealt with feeling lonely before, having less contact with others has only made that worse. 

“For my own personal life, I’ve definitely dealt with loneliness before COVID, but COVID has definitely amplified that and made it way worse than it normally would have been,” Raymond said. 

The combination of cold, rainy weather and the risk of spreading the virus makes it difficult for students to get outside and connect with others. It gets difficult to do anything but stay inside. 

Recently, sophomore nursing major Lizzy Carlson has struggled with finding motivation and staying positive during the winter months of the pandemic. 

“For me, the sun brings joy and makes me want to go for a drive or hang out with friends,” Carlson said. “During these colder months, especially during a pandemic, it’s more difficult to do some of those things, and I end up being stuck inside most of the day, not being very active or inspired.”

Whether students live on or off campus, restrictions brought on by the pandemic can cause them to become extremely isolated from family and friends. For those grappling with poor mental health, the longer this goes on, the harder it becomes to cope.

Carlson, who is normally a very social person, has felt alone and isolated.

“I have always been a social butterfly, but being in lockdown for almost a year has made me withdraw from some people and I shouldn’t be doing that,” she explained. “I have felt very alone and lost, but I try to remind myself that this is only for a season and it won’t be permanent.”

Feelings of sadness and a lack of motivation aren’t unique to this year, however. For freshman psychology major Wesley Joo, winter usually comes with some level of sadness, but being cut off from friends and family often only makes this worse. 

“Generally during the winter season, I am under a lot of stress due to schoolwork. Usually, when I study I like to take intermittent breaks and do something active like go for a walk,” Joo said. “But when it’s rainy, cold, and dark outside, it’s hard to get quality activity time in between the stressors of life.”

Students have found ways to cope with these feelings. Joo has found that focusing on little accomplishments every day can help in some way.

“I’ve been dealing with it like how everyone else is dealing with it; just taking it one day at a time. If I can get out of bed in the morning, that’s a win. If I can get my assignments in on time, that’s a win. If I get to work on time, that’s a win,” Joo said.

Students don’t know when the pandemic is going to end, so for those who are struggling, finding strategies to cope with sadness and loneliness can be very important. For Raymond, that has meant trying to keep himself occupied and connect with friends in safe ways. 

“I’ve tried my best to stay as busy as possible by getting a job, trying to stay ahead on homework. In terms of taking care of myself mentally, I try to communicate with friends as much as possible,”  Raymond explained. “Like just texting people, talking on the phone with them, maybe like going on a walk while staying distant.”

Right now, it may be difficult for students to find hope, however, it is important to remember that no one is alone in these feelings, and both the pandemic and cold weather will pass with time. 

“Remember to give yourself grace; Grace has been my word for this year so far,” Carlson said. “So of course you will have days where you feel exhausted, unmotivated, uninspired, or depressed. Soon the sun will be out longer, the flowers will bloom, and you will gain back some of your joy. Love is everywhere, remember to love yourself.”