5 Tips for Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

SAD is more than just an emotion

As the clocks fall back and the sun goes down earlier, many experience a change in overall mood. For some, this shift can be classified as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. According to various studies, around 5% of Americans experience seasonal depression, and of those 5%, 75% are women. SAD is a real, genuine mental health condition and should be treated with the same respect and empathy as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).

What causes SAD?

The main idea thought to be the cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder is a lack of sunlight and vitamin D. This lack of light leads to a decrease in serotonin, a chemical in the brain that boosts your overall affect. The seasonal changes affect an individual's biological clock, leading to changes in hormone balances, sleeping patterns, and mood shifts.

seasonal affective disorder
What are the symptoms of SAD?

A few of the main signs and symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include:

  • feelings of depression and sadness
  • lack of energy and motivation
  • lethargy and oversleeping
  • changes in appetite or weight gain
  • loss of interest in daily activities
  • irritability
  • a sense of hopelessness
How can I treat SAD?

Here are 5 tips for managing Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  1. Seek professional help. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be experiencing SAD. They can refer you to a therapist that can assess your condition and confirm diagnosis, employ cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and prescribe antidepressants.
  2. Vitamin D supplement or light therapy. Since one of the main causes of SAD is a lack of sunlight, attempting to get the vitamin D or light exposure elsewhere is an option. Taking a daily vitamin D supplement or trying bright light therapy may be a great remedy. We recommend that any supplements be approved by your prescriber before adding them to your routine.
  3. Prioritize social activities. SAD makes you feel the need to isolate and stay inactive. Planning ahead and having social interactions to look forward to can help combat some of those feelings of loneliness. It also allows you to lean on others for help to hold you accountable.
  4. Set a sleep schedule. It may be tempting to take a 3-hour long nap in the middle of the day or hit the snooze button and sleep in, but regulating your sleep schedule is incredibly important. Try setting an alarm and combatting those feelings of lethargy as best as you can to maintain a proper sleep/wake cycle.
  5. Exercise. While getting out and active certainly isn't the easiest feat in the winter months, any sort of exercise is proven to help boost your mood. Try an at-home fitness class or sign up for a group class at your local gym. Even just taking a short walk once a day can help get your mood up.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression, therefore, it’s best diagnosed and treated by talking with a mental health professional. If you're struggling with managing Seasonal Affective Disorder, clinicians at our Counseling & Wellness Centers are here to help!

Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 x9500) for more information about our counseling services.