Updated: Oct 30, 2020
by Dr. Jen Caudle
By 4:30pm it's dark outside and not only is this strange, it's downright depressing. If you find yourself feeling a little sad and unmotivated during cold and dark weather (especially as days get darker earlier) you’re not alone. Many of us have felt this way, and for some, feeling S.A.D. during the wintertime is a regular occurrence.
S.A.D., or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a type of depression that is characterized by a serious mood change that is usually triggered by the seasons. It can happen in the summer or winter but often occurs during the winter months when there is less sunlight. Seasonal Affective Disorder tends to come back year after year around the same time – it is often characterized by a lack of motivation, decreased energy, hopelessness, sadness, lack of concentration and fatigue, among others.
Regardless of whether you have symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or feelings of sadness in general, here are some tips for coping:
1. Look forward to Something– Make plans. It can be a trip (someplace warm, perhaps?), an outing….something. This will help break up the monotony of winter.
2. Get light!– Exposure to sunlight during the day can help ease symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Start by opening your curtains, facing a window during working hours, or getting a walk in during the day (making sure to always wear sunscreen when out in the sun).
3. Set goals– Think about what goals you have for work/home/family/etc! Have you been wanting to refinish a cabinet? Read a new book? Try something new with your family? Make a list and commit to working toward these goals to keep yourself motivated.
4. Do good things for yourself- Make an effort to spend time with family, friends and people who are good for you. Maintain healthy eating and exercise habits during the winter- this is always a good idea and will help you stay healthy.
5. If you can't shake the funk.... Talk with your doctor about medications and treatment options that may help. Also, consider going to therapy to discuss your feelings and ways to cope.
Above all else, simply know that you are not alone. S.A.D. affects many people and there is help.
Dr. Jen Caudle is a Family Physician, Associate Professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. She frequently appears on TODAY, NBC Nightly News, Dr. Oz Show, Fox News, HLN, the Rachael Ray Show and many other networks.