3 Ways to Cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Let’s face it: winter is hard. This season has been especially tough for many, as we all try to navigate new anxieties related to the COVID-19 pandemic and find balance in our upended lives. For those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the challenges of daily life amid a pandemic may feel overwhelming.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), SAD is a type of depression that occurs in a seasonal pattern, with symptoms that can last for several months. The Cleveland Clinic reports that approximately 5% of adults in the US experience SAD, and as many as 20% of Americans experience milder mood changes during the winter. For unknown reasons, women tend to suffer from SAD more than men.

If you are experiencing SAD, winter blues, or are just having a hard time right now, here are a few suggestions that can help:

Keep it moving

Though it’s tempting to hide under the covers from both the weather and the news, resist the urge to hunker down! Maintaining a regular exercise routine can help support healthy brain chemistry.

  • Mask up and go for daily walks outside if it’s safe to do so in your neighborhood.
  • Download a fitness app to track your progress. This may also encourage you to stick with your new routine.
  • Find free workout videos online. Women’s Health Connecticut employees enjoy doyogawithme.com, fitnessblender.com, and Ryan Heffington’s “Sweat Fest” dance videos on Instagram.

See the light

Consider investing in a light box. Studies suggest that adopting a daily light therapy regimen can significantly improve your mood. Light therapy is also used to treat other forms of depression and sleep disorders. (We suggest talking to your doctor first to help you find the right device and to discuss side effects.)

Stay connected

Even if you’re doing your best to stay home and socially distanced from others, it doesn’t mean you can’t foster meaningful connections from a distance. Experiencing Zoom fatigue? Try writing letters or postcards to maintain your relationships while minimizing screen time. The act of sitting down to write an old-fashioned letter can be therapeutic in itself.

Do not hesitate to reach out to your Women’s Health Connecticut provider to discuss how you’re feeling. Our doctors, nurses, and midwives care about the “whole you” and can provide guidance and resources for managing your mental health. Women’s Health Connecticut providers work collaboratively with a network of behavioral health specialists who can help find the treatment options that will work best for you, including medication and therapy.

Hang in there, and keep wearing your masks! Spring and sunnier days are right around the corner.




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