Mental Health

Tips for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Are you ever stressed out when the weather is not sunny? Do you feel bummed knowing winter is just around the corner? Now that the day is shorter and temperatures are cooling down, some people get depressed over limited sunny days. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes when seasons change. The mental condition occurs at the same period every year as the seasons transition. It is especially common during the cold seasons. 

Written by

Isha Team


December 6, 2022


January 26, 2023

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

The plausible explanation for this condition has to do with the way your body responds to the sun. The body releases a hormone called melatonin which helps you get that much-needed deep sleep. The hormone gets released at night when there is no sunshine or brightness. Aside from sleeping, melatonin lets your body and mind rest. During this restful state, your body heals and repairs itself. Your muscles relax, and the mind recharges and unwinds, preparing you to seize the next day. However, the hormone causes depression when it gets overproduced by the body. 

As summer ends, the daytime period shortens, you get minimal sun time, and more melatonin gets released by the body. The extra dose is not harmful, but too much of it causes SAD. However, for some people, the amount released is too much. As the weather gets cold and dark, they become more sleepy, moody, tired, and depressed. 

Sometimes SAD occurs during summer and resolves in the thick of winter. It can also be mild, also known as winter blues. Regardless of the onset and severity, SAD can take a toll on life. It interferes with productivity, robs you of the season's joy, and lowers your quality of life. Just like depression, the change in seasons causes:

  • Persistent sadness
  • A lack of interest in activities of daily living
  • Guilt, despair, and self-worthlessness
  • Extreme tiredness that does not resolve with a night's rest
  • Sleepiness - sleeping for long periods and finding it hard to get up or stay awake
  • Low concentration
  • A decreased sex drive

Ways to Ease Seasonal Affective Disorder

You can learn to manage SAD and continue thriving even when seasons change. Here are tips to help you cope.

Engage With A Counselling Psychologist

SAD is a form of depression. A professional needs to diagnose and treat this condition. Recurring depression left untreated worsens with time. You can also pick up destructive behavior to escape the persisting depressive mood. You do not have to battle low moods alone. Reach out to a counseling psychologist.

In therapy, you learn beneficial skills, techniques, and behavior that lift your mood. Your therapist also becomes your listening, accountability, and support. They provide the needed guidance and empower you to cultivate resilience during the undesired season. 

Brighten Your Environment

Your immediate environment affects your mood - that is why gloomy weather gets to the soul. Weather control can be beyond your ability, but your home's interior is not. Brighten your space to chase away the blues. Get warm fuzzy blankets or a fireplace. 

Buy comfortable pajamas that will make you look forward to having them on. Let your house's walls radiate warmth - from the decor to the ambiance. Have friends and loved ones over for a staycation on the weekends. Build positive memories around your home during the troublesome season to keep your mind at peace. 

Eat Well

Nutrition contributes to your mental health. For instance, your nerve cells use all the B vitamins to strengthen their structures and relay information efficiently. Eating foods rich in vitamin B helps repair and maintain the nervous system. Part of this system is responsible for your mood, feelings, thought pattern, motivation, decision-making, and concentration. 

Instead of taking out your misery by indulging in alcohol or comfort foods, prepare nutritious meals. Enjoy tasty warm soups and beverages. Prepare hearty seasonal meals that will have you looking forward to that season. 

Mentally Prepare for that Undesirable Season

Instead of the season to adjust, prepare for it in advance. If you get depressed during winter, start planning for the season in the fall. Initiate group chats with friends and make plans for winter. Such fun-filled activities will get you excited for the season. Fill up your winter plans with fun-filled activities. 

  • Get your movie list for hot chocolate and marshmallow nights. 
  • Take a camping trip to a cabin. 
  • Plan for skiing or ice skating. 
  • Have a bonfire with friends and loved ones
  • Host a snow sculpture competition

Try Bright Light Therapy

Bright light therapy helps regulate your internal clock, which controls your sleep/wake cycle. Melatonin gets released during the sleep episode of the sleep cycle. The internal call responds to day and night using the light from the sun. 

During winter, when nights are longer, the sleep/wake cycle can malfunction, leading to an oversupply of melatonin. Melatonin either gets overproduced or underproduced during such seasons. You can supplement for the extra night hours by lighting a bright light. The light reduces the release of melatonin in your body, which, in turn, eliminates the hormone's depressive effects. 

Get a Dawn Simulator

A dawn simulator is a device that works like an alarm. However, instead of sounding the alarm, the simulator lights up and gradually increases its brightness like during sun rise. Dawn simulators mimic natural light and can help your brain adjust to the harshness of winter without triggering depression. 

Capitalize on Social Activity

Research shows there is a link between isolation and depression. Depression thrives in isolation. Therefore, resist the urge to stay alone. If you have SAD, be proactive in your social life during the triggering season. Keep active tabs with friends and loved ones. Limit alone times - especially during a depressive mood. Find creative ways to keep in touch with people. 

Have a Schedule

SAD makes it hard to want to do anything. It makes you tired, sleepy, and demotivated. Have a schedule for that problematic season. Designate times for working, resting, and socializing. Keep your calendar busy and your mind entertained with beneficial thoughts. Resist idleness at all costs because it creates an environment for negative thinking during the depressive mood.  

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