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How to Prepare for Seasonal Depression: Challenges and Treatments


What is Seasonal Depression?

Season changes can affect many parts of your life and how your body responds to mother nature's changes. Unfortunately, the shorter days and gloomy weather with the Winter season can trigger seasonal depression. Certain feelings such as social isolation, irritability, fatigue, and loss of appetite are just a few symptoms of onsetting seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

SAD typically begins during the change at the beginning of the fall season and can affect your daily life, how you think, and how you feel. SAD tends to start in young adulthood affecting about 5% of adults in the United States 75% of women. 

A graphic with text, roughly 5% of US adults experience SAD and say it lasts 40% of the year

What Causes SAD?

SAD can happen when someone has less exposure to sunlight. Their internal clock regulates mood, sleep, and hormone shifts called a Biological Clock change. Another critical factor is a brain chemical imbalance, typically caused by the lessening of sunlight in the wintertime that helps regulate serotonin levels. Serotonin is the chemical that contributes to happiness. Many other things cause SAD. 

What SAD Symptoms Should You Look for?

Unfortunately, the list of SAD symptoms is not short, but it is good to know what to look out for. Fortunately, there are ways to prepare your body and mind for SAD ahead of time, but first, look at the list of common symptoms below.

  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy 
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Carbohydrate cravings and weight gain
  • Withdrawing from social activities 
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Sleeping more
  • Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness

There is not a simple one-time solution to SAD, but there are ways you can maintain your physical and mental health during those times. 

How to Prepare for Seasonal Depression

SAD can be challenging to manage and cope with; fortunately, there are ways to reduce the effects while preventing it from coming back each year. Since SAD symptoms typically make themselves known in the wintertime, spending more time outside, even though it's winter, is the most natural and effective way to cope with seasonal depression. Sun exposure helps your brain rebalance its melatonin, serotonin, and vitamin D levels.

Regular exercise is also a sure way to cope with seasonal depression. Find a workout routine that works for you and fits into your schedule. The exercises do not have to be intense; instead designed to get you physically active.

Light therapy is the preferred treatment method for seasonal depression and is a simple, safe and effective way of replacing lost access to sunlight. A primary key to avoiding SAD is to start light therapy at the beginning of the fall. This is done by sitting in front of a therapy lamp for 20 to 30 minutes each day. This allows your body to produce and adjust essential chemicals while also helping reset your circadian rhythm. 

A well-balanced diet is also an excellent way to prepare or prevent SAD altogether. Lean proteins, Flax seeds and walnuts, Berries, Folic acid, Dark chocolate, Turkey, and bananas are all great foods that, when added into a well-maintained diet, can help prevent or lessen the effects of SAD. 

Supplements and Vitamins that Help with SAD

One natural way of beating the winter blues is through vitamins and supplements. Your body needs many different vitamins every day to function correctly. A deficiency of these vitamins can cause many changes in your mood, feelings, and thoughts, making handling SAD more challenging than it already is.

  • Vitamin B3-B9- Help the brain regulate moods.
  • Vitamin D- Vitamin D supplements can help bring your body out of a deficiency and boost you to cope with seasonal depression.
  • Melatonin- Melatonin improves your sleep which is essential for your mental health; try taking melatonin pills before bed to help cope with SAD. 

Some other vitamins and supplements can be added to your daily routine to help with seasonal depression. The most important thing is to find what works best for you and your body. 

Stress and SAD

Stress affects many areas of your life and is a significant cause of SAD. As most people know, stress can come along with any season of life and sometimes takes a considerable toll on your mental and physical health, essential when coping with or preventing seasonal depression. Taking the proper steps to reduce stress levels can be easier said than done. However, there are different ways of learning to cope and reduce stress levels.

First off, identifying what exactly is stressing you out is essential. Whether it be a work overload or a bad relationship, pinpointing the source is where you should start. Trying out daily relaxation techniques like yoga, writing, meditation, muscle relaxation, and even music can help reduce stress and turn your mind to more constructive thoughts.

Another thing to add to your daily routine is a positive thought or something to look forward to each day. Giving yourself something to look forward to, like a tv show, a hobby you love, a game, or even just a tiny amount of time with a friend or family member, this technique helps reduce stress-related SAD.

Create a Calendar of Events

The days grow colder and shorter as winter sets in, becoming almost instinctual to hibernate. Behavioral activation is an excellent method to help combat those feelings by scheduling positive events and activities that will boost your mood. Therapists frequently recommend this method to patients who suffer from seasonal depression to help break them out of their cycle and boost their mood.

For example, you could take this method a step further if you wanted to by planning out your entire winter or a significant portion of it by planning spa trips, vacations, going to a movie with a family member or friend, or even volunteering in your local community. Anything that will break you out of your cycle and SAD routine, boost your mood, and get you out in the sunlight, will make coping with seasonal depression much easier each year. 

Additional SAD Resources

A woman in front of a therapy lamp. Text, the ultimate guide to seasonal affective disorder

The Ultimate Guide to Seasonal Affective Disorder

Sun graphic with text, The Ultimate Guide to Bright Light Therapy

The Ultimate Guide to Bright Light Therapy

A graphic of a woman sitting next to a diffuser while writing. Text, 21 Seasonal Affective Disorder Self-Care Tips

21 Seasonal Affective Disorder Self-Care Tips

A graphic of a woman sitting next to a window. Text, winter self-care guide

Winter Self-Care Guide


About the Author

Head shot for Brandon Landgraf

Brandon Landgraf is the Digital Marketing Manager for Carex Health Brands. He finds passion and fulfillment in creating content that enhances, improves, and enlivens others' quality of life. All of his written work is formulated to not only offer essential advice and tips but back it with proven studies and experts. His mission is to connect with readers and provide steps to make their lives better.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

About Carex Health Brands

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Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.

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