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5 Ways to Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder in Winter

A person with seasonal affect disorder looking for support during the winter.

Ahh, winter. A season full of shorter days, cold weather, and snow. Nature slows down during winter. You’ll see birds spending more time nesting, bears hibernating, and trees becoming dormant. 

Yet, we as humans continue producing, working, expending energy, and living our fast-paced lifestyles. You’re expected to keep going and going at the same pace but may be feeling bogged down and low.

While maintaining your busy pace, you may see yourself slowing down, resting more, or even experiencing signs of depression. It’s normal to prioritize slowing down and resting during winter, but what happens when you can barely get through the day? You may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

What are the Signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that can show up during the cold, wintry months. Some signs of seasonal affective disorder are:

  • Having less energy and feeling more fatigued

  • Losing interest in activities, even ones you used to enjoy

  • Oversleeping

  • Craving foods with lots of sugar like sweets and desserts

  • Feeling down, irritable, or that you are a disappointment to others

  • Withdrawing socially

If you have experienced any of these symptoms for more than two weeks this winter, you may be dealing with seasonal affective disorder.

How to Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder and Depression During the Winter

A person looking how to manage their seasonal affect disorder in the winter months.

Seasonal affective disorder can make it feel like winter is impossible to get through. The shorter days can actually lower your serotonin levels and increase your melatonin levels, contributing to those feelings of lowness. Luckily, there are tried-and-true strategies to alleviate your symptoms so you can get back to feeling like yourself.

Here are 5 ways to manage your seasonal affective disorder:

Brighten Your Day

Try using a sunrise alarm clock in the mornings to gently wake you up with light. Sitting by a window is another way to expose yourself to more light. If you find these helpful, investing in a lightbox (meant to mimic the sun) may be the next step.

Get Outside

Even if it’s for a 10-minute walk, spending time outside and getting movement in can help alleviate the symptoms of SAD. I’ll admit, this one takes effort especially when it’s cold out. But taking the time to bundle up + go out can be a great way to give yourself self-care this season.

Reach Out

Send a text or call a friend. Schedule a time to grab coffee, or just hang out. Maybe consider taking up a new social hobby, like a board game club or a book club. This one is so hard when you’re feeling alone in what you’re going through – but I promise, your friends want to see you thrive.

Connect with a Therapist or Therapy Group

Group counseling can be an excellent way to stave off symptoms of SAD and help you feel more connected with the world. You’re not alone and you don’t have to struggle alone. Sometimes, there’s nothing more healing than being with a group of people going through the experiences you’re going through.

Individual counseling can be another way to get this support and receive more focused, individualized care for your symptoms. Meeting with a therapist gives you the opportunity to be fully seen and heard in what you’re going through. Sometimes, there’s nothing more healing than having a therapist on your side and wanting to see you thrive!

Talk to Your Doctor

Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to symptoms of SAD, especially as you are getting less light during the shorter days. It may be helpful to talk over your options with your doctor – treatment may include supplements and mental health medications.

There’s No Shame in Dealing with SAD

It’s easy to feel like your experiences of SAD and depression are your fault or some sort of character flaw. The reality is that humans are designed to spend time outside, get sunlight, and stay tightly socially connected. The cold, dark, winter months can contribute to lower serotonin (a natural mood stabilizer) levels and higher melatonin (regulates sleep) levels. It’s okay to be struggling.

Reading this blog is a great first step to better understanding SAD and depression. Don’t stop here, though! Try out a couple of the strategies above and see what works for you.

Remember, it’s normal to need extra support during the winter. At Catalyss Counseling, we have therapists who understand the challenges of getting through this season and becoming your best self. And, joining one of our groups for support can be a powerful antidote and reminder that you’re not alone in dealing with these struggles. The best form of self-care is finding the support you need.

How We Can Help

If you are looking for general support, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how we can help you, follow these simple steps:

  1. Contact us today for a free 20-minute phone consultation

  2. Or, you can book directly online with the therapist of your choice

  3. Begin your journey towards a calmer, more relaxed life

Other Therapy Services Available at Catalyss Counseling:

Author Biography

An therapist at Catalyss Counseling

Frankie Washofsky is a master’s-level intern therapist and a provider for the Affordable Counseling Program with Catalyss Counseling. She works with highly sensitive adults (HSPs) experiencing anxiety, depression, SAD, and ADHD. Frankie is also an avid reader and a blog author. She specializes in working with HSPs, perfectionists, and people-pleasers. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

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Liliana Moore
Liliana Moore
2 days ago

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