VANCOUVER -- As B.C. residents hunker down for their second social lockdown of the pandemic, they're also facing shorter days and colder weather. 

That's prompted concerns that the yearly experience of seasonal affective disorder could be compounded by the already stressful impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Robert Grigore is a Vancouver counsellor who specializes in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy. He says we’re about to enter a winter unlike any other.

“We’re going to get depression across the board, anger, hopelessness, powerlessness, anxiety, sleep disturbances, even suicidal thinking is possible, so it’s really, really important that we pay attention to what’s going on right now,” Grigore said.

A study from UBC found 65 per cent of participants reported “adverse mental health impacts” related to COVID-19 in May. So what can British Columbians do to cope this time around? Grigore offered some advice.

1. Clean your environment

For many people working from home right now, the living room or bedroom is also the office. While the idea of keeping the space clean sounds simple, Grigore said it can do wonders for your mental health.

“The right hemisphere of your brain is your spatial recognition so you’re picking up your environment. If you see a lot of clutter versus clean lines and space, it makes you feel differently,” he said. “If you’re feeling cluttered you can also begin to feel claustrophobic.”

2. Feel it

Being isolated for extended periods of time can bring pent up emotion to the surface. Grigore said it’s important to acknowledge it and get it out.

“Express your feelings through art, music, poetry, prayer, meditation and even a good cry can release some pent up emotions that have to come out, especially during grief,” he said.

This can also be a particularly challenging time for people who live alone. Some of the advice Grigore shared back in March is still relevant today.

“Things like really utilizing Zoom meetings and phone calls and really becoming active is useful.”

3. Keep moving

Even though it’s raining outside, Grigore said it’s important to not fall into the trap of curling up on the couch all day watching TV. He suggests indoor workouts, walks and even dancing in the living room.

“Even three-five minutes of movement can do a tremendous amount of benefit to increase your mood,” he said. “Put on your favourite music playlist and just bust a move for three minutes. Even if you feel silly, it’ll help you feel better.”

4. Work on yourself or your family

As people spend more time alone or with family, Grigore said it presents an “opportunity to actually make some changes in your life,” whether that be personally, professionally or even academically. He suggests making time to seek out therapy, deepen relationships with people, start a new business or even take an online course.

“One of the worst things for anxiety and depression is purposelessness and meaninglessness,” he said. “This doesn’t have to be a dark time. Even though it’s dark outside, it can be just the moment before it becomes bright again.”

Grigore has free resources available on his website. There are also a number of free online mental health resources available to British Columbians, including: