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Mental Health

5 Tips to Help You Cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder This Fall and Winter

While a lot of us are over the moon about the weather getting chilly and the leaves changing and beginning to fall, some of us are dreading the gloom of the winter doldrums. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that cycles with the seasons of the year. Individuals who suffer from SAD typically become much more depressed in the winter when the days become shorter and gloomier.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is more common than we may realize. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it turns out women are most likely to be affected. Also, young adults and people who already have a mental disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder are more likely to have SAD. Since this affects such a large portion of the population, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms. Those who suffer from SAD tend to experience:

  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
  • Abnormal eating habits, such as eating too much or too frequently
  • Social isolation
  • An overall feeling of sadness or hopelessness

Since SAD is a subset of Depression, it shares signs and symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder as well. These symptoms include:

  • Having low energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating
  • Sleeping either too much or too little
  • A change in eating habits
  • Thoughts of suicide

SAD can have detrimental impacts on people’s lives. If symptoms progress, people can become totally isolated and severely depressed. It’s important to explore the different ways in which you can cope during this crucial time.

1. Light Therapy

Also known as phototherapy, light therapy is essentially supplementing natural daylight with artificial light. Since a lack of light is a big contributor to feeling low, this could be a great option for coping! Just be sure to get a light that is specifically made for SAD, as opposed to decorative lights or lights made for certain skin conditions. Also, make sure the light is white or blue tint instead of yellow.

2. Get Outside!

It may be incredibly tempting to stay inside and be cozy in bed instead of going out and facing the cold. But getting outside and catching some rays can be incredibly beneficial for your mental wellbeing. A common idea of why depression rates skyrocket during wintertime is due to the lack of vitamin D from sunlight. Taking a walk while the sun is still out and feeling the sun warm your skin can be incredibly therapeutic.

3. If You Can’t Stand the Cold, Consider a Vitamin D Supplement

Before I go any further into this point, I must emphasize that this is something to seriously talk with your doctor about before making a decision. Sometimes, it’s really hard to leave your home where it’s cozy and warm and you have all those YouTube videos to watch, and I feel you. If going outside when it’s cold just isn’t doable, there is still another way you can get Vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements have been known for improving mood during the wintertime when we are all lacking. However, be careful about the dosing and speak to your doctor before taking any sort of supplement. In addition to this, it’s completely possible to obtain Vitamin D through foods like salmon, tuna, egg yolks, shrimp, cheese, beef, and mushrooms.

4. Break a Sweat!

I know you’re probably sick of hearing people tell you “just exercise!” when you’re living with depression, and exercise alone can’t fix all your problems. However, the release of endorphins when you exercise has remarkable effects when it comes to lifting your mood and relieving some stress. You don’t need to hit the gym every single day (unless you want to!) to feel better. Something as small as walking home instead of taking the bus or taking the stairs instead of the elevator will get the blood flowing and help you feel better, at least for a little bit.

5. Talk to Someone

As much as these little tricks can be helpful, nothing will truly help the way that therapy can. If you’re struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or you just want to talk about how you’ve been feeling down, please visit the counseling center and talk to a professional. One of the best ways to work through these types of things is to talk it out with a professional who can help you create a treatment plan or even prescribe you medication.

The wintertime can be a bummer, and oftentimes the darkness and chilliness can leave our moods in a fragile state but remember that your mental health is the most important thing, and it’s worth making efforts to take care of yourself. 


Credit: Cover, 1, 2, 3, 4

Juliana Elg

West Chester '21

Hi, I'm Juliana Elg! I'm a junior Psychology student with a minor in Global Studies and I'm passionate about writing, telling stories, and helping others. When I'm not studying you can find me going on nature walks and painting.
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