Center for Integrative Psychiatry

How to cope with seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. It usually begins in late fall or early winter and goes away during spring or summer. However, some people may experience the opposite pattern, with symptoms starting in spring or summer and resolving in fall or winter.

SAD can affect your mood, energy, appetite, sleep, and interest in activities. It can also make you feel hopeless, worthless, or suicidal. SAD is not a sign of weakness or something you can just snap out of. It’s a serious condition that requires professional help.

In this blog post, we will explain the causes and risk factors of SAD, the objectives for depression treatment, and some of the ways you can cope with seasonal affective disorder.

What causes SAD and who is at risk?

The exact cause of SAD is not known, but some of the factors that may influence it include:

  • Changes in your body’s internal clock due to seasonal changes in daylight hours. This can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle and affect your mood.
  • Reduced levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. Serotonin production may be affected by the amount of sunlight you get.
  • An imbalance in melatonin, a hormone that influences sleep and mood. Melatonin levels may change with the seasons and affect your biological rhythms.
  • Vitamin D deficiency, which may result from lack of sun exposure. Vitamin D plays a role in brain function and mood regulation.

Some people are more prone to SAD than others. The risk factors include:

  • Family history of depression or SAD
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop SAD than men
  • Age: Younger adults are more vulnerable to SAD than older adults
  • Location: Living far from the equator, where winter days are shorter and darker
  • Personal history of clinical depression or bipolar disorder

What are the objectives for depression treatment?

The main goal of depression treatment is to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Depending on the severity of your condition, your treatment plan may include:

  • Medication: Antidepressants can help balance your brain chemicals and ease your depression. Some of the common types of antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and bupropion. You may need to try different medications or dosages to find what works best for you. Always consult your doctor before starting or stopping any medication.
  • Psychotherapy: Talking to a mental health professional can help you cope with your negative thoughts and feelings, identify and change unhelpful patterns of behavior, and learn stress management skills. Some of the common types of psychotherapy are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and behavioral activation therapy (BAT).
  • Light therapy: Exposing yourself to bright artificial light for a certain amount of time each day can help reset your body clock and boost your mood. Light therapy involves sitting in front of a light box that emits white or blue light that mimics natural sunlight. You should do this in the morning, preferably within an hour of waking up, for 20 to 60 minutes. Light therapy is generally safe and effective, but it may cause some side effects such as headache, eye strain, or nausea. You should consult your doctor before starting light therapy, especially if you have eye problems or bipolar disorder.

How to cope with seasonal affective disorder

In addition to seeking professional help, there are some self-care steps you can take to cope with seasonal affective disorder. Here are some tips:

  • Keep your house well lit: Open your curtains during the day and use lamps or candles at night to create a cozy atmosphere.
  • Sit closer to bright windows: Whether at home or at work, try to sit near a window that gets plenty of natural light. This can help you feel more alert and energized.
  • Take a walk outside each day: Even on cloudy days, getting some fresh air and sunlight can improve your mood and physical health. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet: Avoid sugary foods that can cause mood swings and cravings. Instead, eat foods rich in vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, and antioxidants. These nutrients can support your brain function and mood. Some examples are fatty fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, berries, leafy greens, oranges, and fortified cereals.
  • Stick to your treatment plan: Follow your doctor’s advice on medication, psychotherapy, and light therapy. Don’t skip doses or appointments, and report any changes or side effects to your doctor.
  • Practice relaxation techniques: Stress can worsen your depression and make it harder to cope. Try to find ways to relax and calm your mind, such as yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, music, or art therapy.
  • Connect with people: Loneliness can amplify your negative emotions and make you feel isolated. Reach out to your friends, family, or support groups for emotional support and social interaction. You can also volunteer for a cause you care about or join a club or hobby group that interests you.
  • Take a trip: If possible, plan a vacation to a warmer or sunnier location during the winter months. This can help you break the monotony of the season and give you something to look forward to.


Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs during certain seasons, usually winter. It can affect your mood, energy, sleep, appetite, and interest in activities. It can also make you feel hopeless, worthless, or suicidal.

SAD is not something you can just snap out of. It’s a serious condition that requires professional help. The treatment options for SAD include medication, psychotherapy, and light therapy. You can also cope with seasonal affective disorder by taking care of yourself, getting enough light and exercise, eating well, managing stress, and staying connected with others.

If you think you have SAD or any other form of depression, don’t hesitate to seek help. You are not alone, and there is hope for recovery.

Medical disclaimer

This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. Always consult your doctor before making any changes to your health or treatment plan.

Contact Us

If you are looking for professional help for seasonal affective disorder or any other mental health issue, you can contact the Center for Integrative Psychiatry. We are a team of experienced and compassionate psychiatrists, and therapists who offer personalized and evidence-based care for a variety of mental health conditions. We also provide integrative services such as nutrition counseling, and mindfulness training and more. To schedule an appointment or learn more about our services, please visit our website or call us at 1-877-283-5336.

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