Tips To Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder

This year with these tips to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder you will improve your mood and increase your chances of avoiding the funk next year!

I know, pretty optimistic of me! However, I am confident that finding skills to use in those moments before, during, and after the cold and dark season will set you up for success.

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Let’s start with the basics

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that presents and discontinues around the same time each year. Please note that some individuals experience these symptoms on the opposite time of year-spring/summer.

These symptoms are:

  • Depressed mood
  • Anhedonia
  • Insomnia*/ Hyposomnia
  • Weight gain* or loss
  • Lack of concentration
  • Worthless/Hopelessness

*more common in winter months

Want to know if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder? This questionnaire may help you.

Why SAD happens?

There are numerous why you may experience SAD in the fall. One reason is the lack of natural light that interferes with your internal biological clock. The effects on the biological clock leads to depressive symptoms.

The second reason would be low serotonin levels which is a neurotransmitter that affects your mood. Serotonin regulates mood, social behavior, appetite, sleep, memory and sexual desire. The lack of vitamin D you are receiving may be affecting your serotonin levels!

Lastly, SAD is common in the fall due to low melatonin levels. Melatonin levels are affected by the decrease in light throughout your day. When your levels are low your sleep becomes affected and your mood follows suit. This is why many (primary doctor, psychiatrist and/or psychotherapist) may tell you to ensure you are obtaining adequate sleep each night.

Risk Factors For Seasonal Affective Disorder

There are some risk factors for Seasonal Affective Disorder that you should keep in mind, in hopes that it helps you recognize the symptoms. Similar to Major Depression Disorder (MDD) , Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) has genetic risk factors. If a family member has depression or SAD you have an increased risk for this diagnosis.

Another risk factor is having a mental illness regardless of the weather change. If you have MDD or Bipolar Disorder and the like, your symptoms are likely to increase in severity. This is not an “end all be all”, some individuals do not have an increase of symptoms, however there is a risk.

Tips To Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder

Psychotherapy

It is important to have psychotherapy services during this time and there are multiple reasons for this. There have been many studies done that have concluded that psychotherapy where individual receive Cognitive Behavioral Therapy led to an improvement in mood.

Other forms of therapy are also effective in targeting the negative thought pattern, low energy and nutrition. As with most things, improvements in nutrition- diet, exercise, going outdoors- all improve your mood.

At minimum, going to therapy lowers your stress and provides an improvement in world outlook. You will also learn how to manage your symptoms and how to speak with your support system when you need help.

Light Therapy

Bright Light Therapy (BLT) or photo-therapy is about obtaining bright light in the morning, to replace the sunshine that is not received throughout the day. If you chose to use this method be sure to see a health professional (as with all things) for monitoring of any risk to your health

Medication

Since Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression, it is believed that medication such as SSRI’s or TCA could assist with the symptoms. This is believed due to the affects serotonin may have on the brain. There are medications that work better than others for SAD and have been known to be more cost effective than light therapy.

Be Proactive Rather Than Reactive

The best way to overcome something is to put things in place before it becomes an issue. If you know, each year, you struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder you should put precautions in place.

Some ways to be proactive are:
  • Make an appointment with your therapist
  • Buy vitamins (specifically vitamin D)
  • Reach out to your friends
  • Schedule self care days
  • Eliminate excess stress
  • Set a schedule to ensure you have your needs are met each day
  • Keep a balanced diet
  • Stay hydrated

Understand that Seasonal Affective Disorder, unfortunately, is common and affects many people many different ways. This is why I always refer you back to your mental health professional or primary care doctor as they know you best.

Do not hesitate to ask a question or disclose to them what is going on with you because you’re the only one who can report it. The invisible illness is known to be “scary” for many reasons, one of which is the limited ability for someone else to report what is happening inside your mind. You have to speak up.

As always you need help know that I am here for questions and direction. If you need assistance finding a mental health professional or are still hesitant about it, I recommend you start here.


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24 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this. There are a lot of people suffering from that especially around Christmas time. It’s important to raise awareness about it. Great post

  2. I have SAD, and the light therapy really helps. That and staying busy to distract yourself from the gloom of winter. Also, taking advantage of the stray warm/sunny day to go outside and get fresh air can recharge you for a time. I live in the northeast where the winters are long so I need all of the coping tools I can get. Thanks!

  3. I found this to be a very helpful article. There are so many people that don’t believe that Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing. It is something that I have struggled with for a long time and it is nice to have some tips to help combat it. Just the other day I was looking at the light therapy lamps. Once I can, I will definitely be purchasing one. Thanks for sharing these tips!

    1. Im sorry people demean your struggles however it is real and it is difficult to deal with. Im glad you found these tips helpful

  4. Great post! I have been very intentional about increased doses of vitamin d for my family in this season. Love the light therapy suggestion. I’m definitely going to look into that. Thanks for doing a great job of encouraging people to take care of their mental health needs. So important! 😀

  5. I have suffered from SAD since I was a child and I love these tips. I love that you put this out there because many people don’t know what it is. Thank you so much for the insight and for trying to help others through this as well.

  6. I definitely notice a change in my moods in the winter months, I feel more tired and have less energy. I used to get depressed when I was younger too but I found light therapy helped a lot.

    Stephanie | BLOG | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER

    1. When I have SAD I go to sleep and I do everything slowly as I can. No therapist can help if you are stressed. That’s my experience. We don’t need therapists, we need a better life – that’s what I always say

      1. I am glad you have found a regimen that works for you when those symptoms present. For others therapy can be quite beneficial. For others the products I mentioned (as well as others) are beneficial. I think we have to be careful in stating that no one needs a service that “some” people do not need/want. Thank you for reading and gaining insight and offering it as well!

  7. This was a very helpful post Jess. I had a family member who suffered terribly during their bout with a type of dementia.

    Any form of depression, general sadness or mood disorder can be terribly disruptive to our daily lives and our relationships. You’ve given some tried and true proven methods here. Thank you! I wish you all the very best in this new year of 2020! ♥

  8. Very good topic and tips! People often experience SAD and never understand what is happening to them. Thanks for sharing what it is and how you can cope with it. Peace and blessings.

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