Managing mental health during a pandemic: How to handle the “winter blues” and setting smart resolutions

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Dr. Inger Burnett Zeigler is a licensed clinical psychologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern.


Dr. Burnett Zeigler says resolutions should be “SMART”. Specific, manageable, attainable, realistic, and time based. Common mistakes people make when goal setting is listing too many goals (causing them to feel overwhelmed and like a failure when they don’t meet them) and goals that are overly ambitious (again leading to feelings of being a failure when not met).
She says she prefers the idea of setting intentions rather than resolutions/goals for the new year. Intentions differ from goals in that goals are based on a future outcome and intentions are about how you show up each day.

She says every Winter, about 3% of the population struggles with seasonal depression. The risk of seasonal depression increases for people who have a history of depression. This year, more people might find themselves vulnerable to seasonal depression as their routines have been disrupted, they are more stressed, it may be more challenging to engage with typical forms of support and as the pandemic wanes on, and important coping strategies might be falling by the wayside. 

When it comes to managing anxiety during the pandemic:
1) Stay present moment focused (as it is harder to plan for the future given the uncertainty associated with the pandemic).
2) Use the information that you have available to you to make decisions rather than focusing on the unknowns.
3) Identify what is in your control and let go of the rest.
4) Resist the urge to focus on worst possible outcomes.

You can find Dr. Inger Burnett – Zeigler online at IngerBZ.com.

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