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What to Do When You Have SAD

What to Do When You Have SAD

Mental health concerns have become priority topics in the world of health and wellness. Conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and eating disorders are some of the more commonly talked about, and many people will tell you they don’t suffer from anything serious like that. However, there are other disorders that can affect your way of life that deal with your emotions and mental state that aren’t presented as severely as you think. Seasonal affective disorder is one of these conditions.

Struggling With SAD

The winter months have some people excited about Christmas and snowmen, while others are negatively impacted by the changes of the season. Over half a million Americans become tired, depressed, and irritable as the crisp air of fall moves into the dark nights of winter. People go to bed a lot earlier and stay there a lot longer, reducing their activity and social levels. These are symptoms of depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) interrupts a healthy and productive lifestyle. The professionals refer to SAD as a mood disorder that routinely affects a person each year between the months of September and May. It is often triggered by cold weather moving in but dissipates as warm weather returns. The dark, short days of winter are filled with sadness and depression, giving way to energy and cheerfulness once the brightness and warmth of spring and summer returns.

The Complications With SAD

The symptoms of SAD are moodiness, depression, fatigue, and isolation, which mimic the other symptoms of a depression or a mental health concern. The severity of symptoms is different for everyone as well as the response to the symptoms. For many, winter months and isolation bring on unwanted belly fat, as emotional eating takes over and there is a significant reduction in activity levels. The added guilt or frustration that comes with poor diet and unwanted weight gain, and dealing with feelings of low self-esteem and social pressure compound the psychological issues already going on. Though it may seem overwhelming, there are several things you can do to help work through SAD and the challenges it brings.

Talk to Your Doctor

First and foremost, go to talk to your doctor if you think you are suffering from SAD. Because it is considered a form of depression, there are medications that may be available to work from the inside out. You will also want to make sure you are dealing with SAD and not another form of mental health issue. There are different therapies that may be recommended as well to help you work through the condition.

Take Control of Your Diet

Eating better can help you feel a lot better about yourself, but it also can give your body the energy it needs. Whether you focus on foods that address brain health or bodily energy levels, proactively looking at what you eat and when you eat can give you a way to address emotional eating. If you are carrying around unwanted weight, looking into a program like the HCG diet can help with weight loss. It doesn’t require long hours spent at the gym, so you don’t need to worry about heading out when it’s dark in order to work out.

Tune in to Good Music

If it’s wet and rainy or cold and dark, don’t sit around the dark with just the television on. Crank up your iPod or holler at Alexa to play some party hits while you get busy organizing a closet or folding clothes. You can increase your activity levels within the house, and putting on some energizing beats can help get you going. Exercising or rigorous activity releases endorphins, the hormones known for helping people feel good.

Talk a Walk Outside

As spring arrives, there will be more light and warmer weather headed your way. Taking a walk at a local park or around your neighborhood is a great way to address your depression. The exposure to light will jumpstart your body’s natural circadian rhythm and reduce the production of melatonin. Light therapy is often recommended for those suffering from SAD. The exercise will refresh your skin, and the increased blood flow will fill your mind, heart, and lungs with oxygen-rich blood. This increases your energy and improves your cognitive functions. As long as you as engaging in some sort of outdoor activity, whether planting flowers, walking the dogs, raking up dead leaves, or just reading a good book on your back porch, the exposure to the sun and warmth will do wonders for your mind and body.


Suffering from SAD isn’t something to be ashamed of, nor is it something that should ruin your lifestyle. There are a number of therapies and activities that can help restore your interest in winter and spring, so talk to your physician if something has seemed off lately.


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About the author

Dr. Richard Smith, MD

4 min read