Combating Seasonal Affective Disorder



It's been a long winter… Are you experiencing a loss of interest? Feeling sluggish? Less engaged? Trouble concentrating?


Public health experts anticipate higher levels of depression this winter due to the collective effects of the pandemic, and the winter blues (clinically known as seasonal affect disorder, or SAD). The arrival of cold, rainy weather limits the possibility of outdoor gatherings and activities. The shorter days are hard too, especially for the estimated 5% to 15% of Americans who suffer from SAD.


The symptoms of SAD mimic those of general depression, such as sadness, fatigue, loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities, excessive sleep, and starch and sweet food cravings accompanied by weight gain. The main difference is that SAD occurs in a seasonal pattern, beginning near the end of fall and abating by summer.


A simple understanding of how you are affected by the winter months and the social isolation caused by COVID-19, will help provide a blueprint in how to treat your mood challenges. If you are noticing changes in disposition, sleep, energy level, and eating patterns, you might be experiencing the negative effects of COVID-related depression and/or SAD.


Talking to you doctor is the first step. There are also many simple practices you can implement to help in the interim. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good start:

  • Set (and stick to!) a routine that includes regular exercise or movement, and healthy eating.

  • Focus on Zzzzz’s. Establishing a regular sleep pattern will help reduce the winter mind-fog.

  • Trouble falling asleep? Remove distractions from the bedroom – no TV, phones, or computers 60 minutes before bedtime.

  • See the sun? Get outside! Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin” helps fight depression and improve mood. A short walk or bundling up to read outside are two simple ways to soak in the winter rays.

  • Socialize. When feeling blue, connecting with others is sometimes the last thing you want to do. But social engagement and support are critical to managing sadness. Schedule weekly friend/family time (virtually or safely in person) in advance – if you can pair a physical activity with loved ones, even better!

  • Meditation and mindfulness. There are many great mobile apps available to make it easier. Check out Calm or MyLife as a start.

  • Psychotherapy. Many therapists are offering virtual sessions now, so you can meet with a mental health professional from the comfort of your home.

Need help connecting to resources? Contact us and we can help!

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