TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Kansas health officials and mental health doctors have warned of increasing feelings of isolation and lack of motivation since the coronavirus pandemic began. Now that the state is facing freezing temperatures this winter, the risk increases even further.

Dr. Gregory Nawalanic, a psychologist with the University of Kansas Health Care System, told the Kansas Capitol Bureau on Friday that more people are staying at home, especially in colder temperatures. The risk of depression becomes more severe.

“There has been an increase in depression in relation to people who feel disconnected and struggle with motivation a lot,” said Dr. Nawalanic. “When the temperature drops, going to the store can be a real challenge.”

According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 5% of adults in the United States experience symptoms that are severe enough to be defined as seasonal affective disorder or winter depression. But there is a larger population who experience less severe symptoms and still might benefit from treatment.

A lack of sunlight can contribute, which was only made worse by the conditions people suffered during the pandemic.

Dr. Nawalanic said some people tend to loosen up and isolate themselves, which is why it is important to find different ways to take care of yourself.

“When we start isolating and stop engaging in different activities, our brain reads this and says we do this when we are really sad, so we have to be sad and that’s how we feel. “he said.” So it’s important to dig really deep, to find the effort, to get involved and to stay active. “

The University of Kansas Health System warned of the potential mental health impact of the pandemic and divided it into four phases. The final stage consists of risk for mental trauma, mental illness, PTSD, economic injury, displacement, burnout, and other mental health problems.

“We have warned of the mental health challenges with this pandemic that would hit the so-called ‘fourth wave’,” said Jill Chadwick, a spokeswoman for the organization.

Dr. Nawalanic said one of the most important things he encourages his patients to do is find new ways to be active and get involved while staying safe.

His tips are:

  • Eat healthier According to Nawalanic, opting for healthier food options like those found on health blogs can improve your mood. He also said that cooking with family members is a fun way to keep active.
  • Exercise- According to Nawalanic, even ten minutes of stretching, walking, or plyometry can help you stay focused and alert throughout the day.
  • Get good sleep- Nawalanic calls it “sleep hygiene,” which means turning off your phone and electronic devices and instead reading a book or talking to family before bed. He said a good night’s sleep is key to staying healthy.
  • Avoid problems with dog stacking. Nawalanic said it was important to remember to stay mindful and positive during this time and stop focusing on what might go wrong. A positive outlook can help build mental resilience during the pandemic.
  • “Step back” from social media By turning off social media and talking to family and friends, even over the phone, Nawalanic can help you feel more connected.