By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s time to fall back this weekend and turn the clocks back one hour. With the end of daylight saving time, doctors are predicting traditional seasonal depression will be even worse this year because of the pandemic.

Not to be too gloomy, but doctors say darker days are coming — not just because of the pandemic but also daylight saving time is ending.

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“Spring forward, fall back,” a Philadelphia woman said.

It means less sunshine when depression traditionally increases.

“When that light is not there, it brings my mood down,” another Philadelphia woman said.

Less daylight impacts brain hormones and can trigger seasonal affective disorder.

“Serotonin and melatonin are both neurotransmitters, hormones in our body that keep us happy, that regulate our sleep and regulate our mood,” Angela Cantwell, administrator of behavioral health at Einstein, said.

Cantwell, who gets the winter blues herself, says this year will be worse.

“I think that 2020 has been a year for the books, for sure,” Cantwell said. “There are so many things out there that can contribute to folks’ depression.”

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COVID-19 has infected 9 million Americans and killed almost 230,000. Businesses are devastated, schools disrupted, lives shaken, but at least we had a couple of months of sunshine and warmth. Now comes the cold weather, dark days and surging cases of COVID-19.

Signs of season depression include low motivation, impaired functioning, isolation, procrastination and a feeling of dread.

“It’s really important that we maintain connections with people, try to find a good in every day, try to find the purpose in every day,” Cantwell said. “Mindfulness is one of the greatest gifts that we can give ourselves, to be mindful of our feelings, recognize our feelings, sit with them for a minute and then decide we don’t want to feel that way anymore.”

Experts say sunlight, especially in the morning, is critical for improving mood along with getting regular exercise.

Doctors say it you can’t get enough sunlight, or need a little extra help, a lightbox or SAD lamp can be very helpful. If depression persists or becomes debilitating, professional help is warranted.


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Stephanie Stahl