Wintertime SADness: Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

With the end of daylight savings time settling in and the sun setting at 4 pm, many of us start to fear the inevitable shift in mood that the winter can bring. Sometimes, it can simply be the winter blues, but for others, the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can bring us down for weeks on end, until the literal and proverbial sun returns. 

Here are some methods for navigating SAD, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic: 

Light Therapy: Light therapy involves sitting a few feet away from specialized light box that mimics natural outdoor light. Before purchasing a light box, talk to your doctor to ensure the one you buy is safe and will be affective for you. Because SAD can be caused by a lack of Vitamin D and sunlight, this therapy is often the first step. Also, braving the cold and getting outside when the sun is shining can also help!

Psychotherapy: A type of psychotherapy known as cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to treat SAD patients. It is useful to help acknowledge and correct behaviors that exacerbate SAD symptoms. 

Medication: In some SAD patients, especially those whose symptoms are severe, antidepressant medications may help ease symptoms. If you can’t make your own serotonin, store-bought is fine!

Mind-Body Techniques: Some people use mind-body techniques to help them cope with SAD. Examples include: yoga, tai chi, or other relaxation techniques; mediation, guided imagery; and music or art therapy. 

Exercise, getting outside when possible, and keeping your environment as sunny as possible can all help. Getting enough sleep, remaining committed to your treatment plan, and socializing can help lift you out of the worst of your SAD symptoms, as can taking a vacation to a sunny and warm place, if financially possible! 

If you’re having a hard time with the changing of the seasons and don’t feel better, brushing it off as a funk or a simple case of the winter blues can plunge you further into the (often literal) darkness. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help if you need it! And remember, the winter will eventually end, no matter how endless it feels.