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December 9, 2022
Five Tips To Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder This Winter

Jenna Lamontagne

Black and white image of a person standing on the riverbank looking into the distance.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Have you ever noticed that your mood fluctuates depending on the weather? Dreary, cloudy, or rainy days may lower your mood, while blue skies and warm sun may boost it. What about prolonged periods of cold, damp, and snowy weather—how do they affect your mood over time? 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can feel like depression and ranges from mild to severe. SAD typically happens during the fall and winter months when days are shorter and cooler, and you receive lower levels of vitamin D from sunlight. Some people experience SAD as soon as Daylight Savings Time ends in the fall: we lose an hour of sunlight and night falls as early as 4:30 PM!

How Common is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder—nicknamed the “winter blues”—is more common than you might think. The Canadian Mental Health Association estimates that two to ten percent of Canadians experience Seasonal Affective Disorder at some point in their life, each to a varying degree.

Common Symptoms of SAD

Seasonal affective disorder tends to mimic depression. People who face this disorder may experience:

  • Fatigue or sleep more than usual
  • Lack of motivation
  • Impaired memory and/or concentration
  • Changes in appetite, weight gain, or weight loss
  • Loss of interest in activities, people, or sex
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, or romantic partner
  • Irritability, becoming easily angered, or cry easily
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, or negative thinking patterns

Five ways to survive SAD

Light therapy

Light therapy is an effective strategy to ease SAD symptoms in the colder months. You can use a SAD light in the comfort of your own home to help mimic outdoor light. Light therapy helps shift chemicals in the brain to elevate your mood and reduce SAD symptoms. SAD lights can be purchased at many department stores and online, but  consult with your medical professional before using one. 

Healthy Eating

Healthy eating can also help manage SAD. This ensures your body gets all the vitamins and nutrients you need to function optimally. It is also recommended to take a multivitamin and/or vitamin D in the winter months to fight common colds and the flu. Remember to speak with your doctor about vitamins or supplements, especially if you’re on other medications. 

Exercise

Get out and get moving, especially on those sunny winter days. Exercise releases endorphins and lifts your mood. Try something new like snowboarding, walking through a winter market, or snowshoeing—you never know, you might enjoy your new activity!

Take a trip

If your budget permits, go somewhere warm or take a weekend trip. Getting away and seeing a new view might be just what you need to combat the winter blues.

Therapy

You can speak with your doctor for more information about SAD and possible treatment options. Therapy is another powerful tool in treating SAD: a therapist can help you develop individual strategies to cope with SAD.

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