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Top Five Ways for Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Updated: Nov 16


As we get closer to the winter months, it can become difficult to cope with the stress of everyday life. If you get a case of the annual “winter blues,” you might be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression. While the cause of SAD is yet unknown, health professionals believe that it is most likely caused by a lack of sunlight. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day

  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed

  • Having low energy

  • Having problems with sleeping

  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight

  • Feeling sluggish or agitated

  • Having difficulty concentrating

  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty

  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

While these seem grim, this phenomenon has been well researched, and this post will give you the top five clinician recommended treatment options!

1. Light Therapy/Phototherapy

Light therapy or phototherapy is one of the leading recommendations for coping with and treating SAD, and for good reason! Light therapy involves the use of a device that provides artificial sunlight in order to combat Vitamin D deficiency caused by the lack of exposure to sunlight. In order to gain maximum efficiency, use the box in the morning for about 15-30 minutes a day, consistently. While the boxes themselves are relatively inexpensive (prices range from $30- $200), many clinicians recommend that you use 10,000 lux units. It is also recommended that you consult a health professional before purchasing a light box, especially if you suffer from bipolar disorder, as it may have adverse side effects. For more information about choosing a light box, read Seasonal affective disorder treatment: Choosing a light therapy box.

2. Exercise

Even though exercise won’t simulate the sun’s rays, it will help your body produce endorphins and serotonin. These have been shown to help reduce stress and regulate some of the side effects of SAD, such as experiencing low energy and weight changes. Even if you don’t have the energy to do cardio, low impact exercise and relaxation techniques such as yoga and tai chi will increase your focus and have a calming effect.

3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another great way to cope with SAD. Clinicians will use this form of psychotherapy in order to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be making you feel worse. CBT will also provide you with the tools to reduce avoidance behavior and work on scheduling activities, as well as stress management techniques. If you are looking for a CBT trained clinician, visit our website to learn more!

4. Medication

If you are experiencing severe symptoms of SAD and have talked to a medical professional, you may want to consider medication. Currently, there is only one drug specifically approved to treat SAD in the US, Wellbutrin XL (bupropion hydrochloride), however, it can also be treated with antidepressants.

5. Sleep Schedule

Last but not least, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is vital to coping with SAD. Doing so will allow you to retain some of the energy you receive while resting. In addition, a good sleep schedule will help you to not spend too much time worrying about the stressors you are experiencing and will allow for further relaxation.

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