Time change got you down? Free mental health help is available

Posted at 7:01 AM, Dec 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-03 19:28:54-05

CLEVELAND — It’s dark, it’s cold, there’s a pandemic, the holidays are probably going to be lonely. We don’t need to tell you all the things that are probably getting you down these days.

And oftentimes, you hear “talk to a professional” if you need help — but that’s not affordable for everyone.

But, there is help and it doesn’t always have to cost you a lot.

"Seasonal depression is a real thing,” said Kimberly Sweeney, who lives in Lake County.

Sweeney has a lot on her plate.

Homeschooling two kids, dealing with seasonal depression and PTSD.

“So the winter months.. the winter months are hard,” she said.

Even harder now that we’re all cooped up in our houses, thanks to the pandemic.

So Sweeney has been finding ways to cope — like crafting old vinyl records into bird feeders and clocks.

And, using the free group therapy services at NAMI Lake County at least twice a week.

“I would not get through this pandemic with the season change without them, they’re a huge support system for me,” Sweeney said.

NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) is currently offering everything virtually via Zoom. They have two support groups that are entirely free of charge and open to the public. You can click here for information and to sign up.

Dr. Carolyn Ievers-Landis is a clinical psychologist at University Hospitals.

She says she’s been seeing an increase in patients having sleep issues these days.

“They are either falling asleep way too early like 6:30 p.m. or they’re up really late because they haven’t done much during the day,” Landis said.

It’s why her best advice is to move your body some way, somehow — dance, walk around, whatever you need to do.

And, she says she knows it’s hard but at least try to get outside.

“We need to have coats and boots or whatever, but we need to get some natural sunlight, we need to move our bodies,” she said.

If it’s just too cold or snowy for that, Landis suggests at least sitting next to a window to get natural light.

Or, you can try those light therapy boxes if you feel like you’re really down.

Twenty minutes in the morning can boost your mood by releasing feel-good chemicals in your brain.

Just remember, it has to be used at an angle and needs to be at least 10,000 lux.

For Sweeney and her son, finding creative coping mechanisms has been a lifesaver.

Like this one, as silly as it seems.

“Walking around with a pillow on your head. Balancing it. So when you’re balancing that pillow on your head, you’re not thinking of anything else,” Sweeney said. That means you’re not thinking of the pandemic, homeschooling, lonely holidays.

And sometimes, that few minutes of a clear mind can make a big difference.