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4 Surprisingly Effective Ways to Deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Cope With (And Maybe Even Avoid) S.A.D.

Seasonal affective disorder (often abbreviated as S.A.D.) is a seasonal form of depression. Depression is triggered by things like shorter days that limit the amount of daylight you experience, cold weather, gray skies, and other elements of winter.

Luckily, there are expert-backed tips and solutions that can help you streamline how you cope with seasonal affective disorder. Before I dive into those, though, let's look at some of the signs of S.A.D.

Signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder

Seasonal affective disorder has a number of tell-tale signs and symptoms, including:

  • Low energy and a lack of desire to do certain things.
  • Hypersomnia, aka excessive sleepiness.
  • Overeating, including stronger cravings for carbohydrates and other “comfort foods.”
  • Weight gain.
  • Social withdrawal and the desire to “hibernate” the season away.

If you're experiencing these symptoms (often as an overall “down” feeling), you might want to try some of these solutions for coping with S.A.D.

How to deal with S.A.D.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are four main ways to cope with seasonal affective disorder :

  1. Medication can help with S.A.D. Your doctor might suggest Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) to see if it helps alleviate symptoms.
  2. Light therapy has been recognized as an effective treatment option since the 1980s. You'll replace lost sunshine with daily exposure to cool-white fluorescent light by sitting in front of a light box first thing in the morning for 20-60 minutes.
  3. Psychotherapy focusing on cognitive behavioral therapy has also been proven effective. I'm a big proponent of the efficacy of CBT, and the specific techniques used to treat S.A.D. help you identify negative thoughts and replace them with more positive thoughts. For example, you might  learn how to identify activities that bring you joy, both indoors or outdoors, to improve how you cope with winter.
  4. Vitamin D supplements have mixed reviews, but the concept behind their use is that, in certain studies, low blood levels of vitamin D were found in people with seasonal affective disorder. Some studies suggest vitamin D supplementation may be as effective as light therapy, others found vitamin D had no effect.

You can, and should, use a combination of these therapies to find what works best for you. It's important to experiment with different methods to find what does the trick, but taking the time to address your S.A.D. will help you get the most out of winter (without having to relocate to sunnier states).

Our caring therapists are here to help you through the winter season and beyond. Contact us today!