Ask Scary Mommy: How Do I Not Lose My Damn Mind This Fall & Winter?!

by Cassandra Stone

Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.

Between quarantine-related cabin fever, seasonal depression, virtual learning, and work-from-home-mom guilt, lots of people are gearing up for a stressful fall/winter season. How can we get through it without losing our minds (or ourselves)?

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Dear Scary Mommy,

I suffer from pretty substantial seasonal depression when there’s not a pandemic that keeps us all inside our own homes way more than cold temperatures already do. I also have a generalized anxiety disorder, which causes me to spiral into “future thinking” and I genuinely cannot help it. I’m already bummed that so many activities that keep my head above water (fall festivals, holiday gatherings) are just not happening this year. On top of that, I’m working from home full-time, trying to share the extremely stressful talk of virtual learning duties with my partner, and feeling All The Guilt because I cannot focus on a million things at once that are constantly demanding my attention. I don’t know how I’m going to cope this year. I see a therapist once a month currently. I don’t think it’s enough, but my time is so limited as it is. HELP.

Listen to me, and listen good: You are not alone. Seasonal depression — also referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder — is real, it can be heavy, and knowing it can last for almost half of the year for some people is extremely frustrating. SAD is also diagnosed four times more often in women than men, which really says something about the mental load of mothers in our society.

The typical activities that help you get through these coming months likely aren’t going to be an option this year, you’re right. If planning something to look forward to is one way you usually cope — which is a proactive, really great way to do that — then try and plan something else. Maybe instead of gathering with the entire extended family indoors for Thanksgiving, why don’t you and your immediate quarantine pod take a few days away to an Air BnB (if it’s financially possible) to enjoy some cozy time or outdoor hikes in new surroundings? Or you could plan cost-effective weekend day trips and find a new park to explore. Bring a picnic lunch, lots of warm blankets, and enjoy. Leave the laptops, Google Hangouts, and the four walls of your house behind for a few hours and do something fun and different together.

I’m glad to hear you see a therapist. And boy, can I empathize with the lack of time in a day and dedicating any of it to self-care. But you know the shorter days, longer nights, and colder weather already affects you. You deserve more than anything to carve out an hour a week and dial into TeleHealth to talk about ways you’re trying to cope, what works, and what doesn’t. Your therapist can also help you brainstorm about this, and help give you the tools you need to work through your depression and anxiety.

Facebook isn’t always a great place for dialoguing — particularly now — but at times, I’ve found parent groups to be enormously helpful (both local and non), as a sounding board and as a place to get ideas from other parents who are also feeling the struggle. Finding a (virtual, germ-free) community is more important than ever now, when so many of us are feeling isolated.

I hope this helps. You’re not alone, you’re extremely self-aware and being proactive, and most of all, you’re doing a wonderful job.

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