Seasonal Affective Disorder: How to Deal With the Winter Blues

Posted on January 23rd 2020 by Laura Armstrong

Many people experience a drop in mood during winter. For some winter blies come and goes, others experience seasonal affective disorder, or SAD every year. In this article you will discover, what SAD is, what are the causes and symptoms of seasonal depression and how to deal with winter blues.

What is a Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)What is a Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a recognized form of depression that is determined by seasonal changes. People also refer to it as winter depression. Seasonal depression usually sets in around late autumn and can last as long as the grey weather does, as its primary cause is lack of light.

SAD is a fitting acronym as many people feel a general sense of sadness when they are experiencing this condition. It can make you feel moody and zap your energy.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms

Most SAD sufferers find their symptoms appear in winter and improve in summer, but it can happen in reverse. Sufferers are affected differently and to varying degrees of severity, but generally symptoms of SAD can include:

  • Persistent low mood
  • Disinterest in activities that used to bring you joy
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Struggling to get out of bed in the morning
  • Craving carbohydrate-rich and high sugar foods

Who does SAD affect?

Psychology Today estimates that 10 million Americans are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder and another 10-20% experience mild symptoms.

Anyone can be affected — even the rich and famous. Successful movie stars are not the first thing to come to mind when we think of depression. Watching Brad Pitt joking and smiling in his acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor at the SAG Awards, you would be forgiven for thinking his life was always so charmed. However, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Brad described how he struggled with mental health issues early in his career: “I was doing the same thing every night and numbing myself to sleep — the same routine: Could not wait to get home and hide out. But that feeling of unease was growing and one night I just said, ‘This is a waste.’”winter blues

Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow might be headline news for her interesting candle fragrances today, but it has not always been smooth sailing. Gwyneth has written about her experience with depression on her lifestyle website, Goop. She describes it as “one of the darkest and most painfully debilitating chapters of my life,” and how regular exercise helped her deal with depression.

Both Brad and Gwyneth understand what causes their depression and how to free themselves. If you think you might be affected by SAD, read on to learn what causes it and how to overcome it.

What causes SAD?

SAD is thought to be linked to a lack of sunlight, which is why symptoms appear during seasons with reduced daylight. Lack of sunlight is believed to affect the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) and serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone).

Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatments

Internationally-renowned therapist Marisa Peer has worked with many Hollywood celebrities, helping them improve their mental wellbeing. Marisa recommends tackling SAD the same way you would treat depression.

Here are 4 tips to cope with SAD:

1. Light

Maximize your exposure to natural light. Getting outside as early in the day as you can helps to regulate your body clock to know it is daytime. If your symptoms are severe, a lightbox which mimics natural sunlight can help.seasonal affective disorder treatmentsIf you have a severe case of Seasonal Affective Disorder, you might want to look into getting a light box that mimics the kind of sunlight you are missing out on in the winter months (usually they are around 300 watts).

2. Exercise

Get moving to boost serotonin. While the gray weather and lethargy you are feeling may make it the last thing you feel like, exercise is key. Choose aerobic activities to get your heart rate up like jogging, cycling or a brisk walk. Exercising outdoors is optimal but even 15-20 minutes on an indoor bike can help.

3. Eat well

Fatigue makes your body desperate for a quick energy fix, leading to sugar and carbohydrate cravings. Switch to unprocessed foods that support consistent energy levels, like fresh vegetables, eggs, and fish. For help making healthy food choices, learn about Marisa’s Four R’s of Healthy Eating.

4. Mindset shift

Like many things in life, we cannot control the weather, but we can control how we respond to it. Sometimes a shift in perspective from “I hate how cold it is outside” to “I am lucky to have a warm home and plenty to eat” can make you realise that winter will pass.

Do something nice for someone who doesn’t have it as good as you do (perhaps buy a hot drink for someone or donate some food) and you will get a boost in serotonin and shift in your perspective.

Marisa has helped thousands of clients free themselves from depression and mental health problems. Find the motivation to tackle your SAD symptoms with the Free Yourself From Depression audio