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10 Tips to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

With amount of daylight getting shorter and the weather getting colder it is hard not to feel a bit sluggish and down.  For 10% of people this time change brings Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you are just feeling down or are diagnosed with SAD try out these 10 things!  

  1. Know the symptoms and signs for SAD

    SAD is usually cyclical and occurs during the fall and winter seasons. Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms in order to take the next step, such as therapy and/or medication. You can also keep a journal to note the changes in behavior and attitude

    Some of the symptoms of SAD include:

    • Sleeping more than usual and having less energy.
    • Increased appetite – specifically craving for carbs.
    • Mood swings and feeling of sadness.
    • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities.
  2. Soak up the sun as much as you can

    Make the effort to be outside for at least 30 minutes. Going on a walk while the sun is out will help you feel more energetic and activate your brain. As we get less and less sunlight during the winter times, consider rearrange the indoor environment to maximize natural light from windows. If you’re at home, keep your curtains and blinds open throughout the day, and if you’re at work, sit by the window whenever you can.

  3. Light, light, and more lights!

    Natural light will always be your best option. However, using artificial lights can help ease some of the symptoms of SAD as well. Light therapy is able to artificially stimulate high-intensity sunlight, making a positive change in your mood.

    Some of the devices you may consider include:

    • Battery-powered visors
    • Portable light boxes
    • Dawn simulators
  4. Less carbs and more vitamins

    Studies show that individuals with SAD will consume sweets, starchy foods, and especially carb-rich foods. Instead, get into the habit of eating a well-balanced diet such as salmon, eggs, and mushrooms – all with high vitamin D contents.

    Research suggests that consuming enough vitamin D may help to prevent and manage depression. Therefore, as we get less and less sunlight, taking dietary supplements and/or eating a healthy range of foods with high vitamin D contents will help offset the insufficiently produced vitamin D’s in our bodies.

  5. Stay active

    Fatigue and feeling lethargic are some of the main symptoms of SAD, so making an effort to stay active can offer a boost of energy and improve your mood dramatically. Also, staying physically active can prevent disruptions to the body’s circadian rhythm, which helps to regulate our sleeping and eating patterns.

    Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the winter season by spending time outside. If possible, go skiing, tobogganing, play with the snow – whatever activity you can do to remain active and get lots of sunlight

  6. Be social – hang out with friends and loved ones

    The pleasure of socializing with others can boost your mind with happiness. Although the harsh weather can prevent regular social interactions, research suggests that pushing/encouraging yourself to connect with others can ultimately lift your spirits.

    However, it’s equally important to establish boundaries. Before anything else, make sure to put yourself in situations or environments that makes you feel comfortable and positive.

  7. Consider seeking professional help

    Don’t feel like you have to fight this alone. Sometimes understanding, identifying, and fighting the symptoms of SAD can be beyond our control, and that is when professional help is necessary. Therefore, even with a packed schedule, it’s crucial to avoid cancelling your therapy sessions.

  8. Talk about it

    If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a professional just yet, consider talking to friends or a family member. Studies show that talking through distress or negative thoughts can open up the door for positive change. As such, feeling comfortable enough to open up to other allows you to explore other opportunities for help and solutions you might not have been aware of.

  9. Take time for yourself

    Seeking professional help or taking to friends and loved ones can be stressful in and of itself. Taking time for yourself such as watching your favorite movie or TV shows can help you relax as well. Partaking in individual activities like yoga or meditation is a great way to boost your energy and reduce the production of stress hormones.

  10. Consider medication

    Some or all of these tips may not help, and that’s okay. Do not hesitate to consider medication, but not before consulting with your doctor first! It’s always important to ask your respective health care provider about prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs including the dietary supplements mentioned before.  

    Remember, follow directions carefully and watch out for any potential side effects.

For more information on Seasonal Affective Disorder, see the Illness pages on mindyourmind.ca.