fbpx Seasonal Affective Disorder | CCNM-ICC

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is common for many of us during the winter months and many people experiencing SAD may not even know it and suffer in silence. So, what is SAD and what can we do about it?
SAD is a type of depression that occurs during the fall/winter months and can cause increased feelings of sadness, irritability, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, loss of energy, crying more often than usual, changes in sleep patterns, feelings of worthlessness, and thoughts of suicide.
If you already experience other mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety, you may experience an increase in your symptoms during this time period. It is also common to turn to unhealthy coping strategies such as substance use, disordered eating and self-harm as a means of coping with SAD. 
How psychotherapy can help with these symptoms: 

  • Psychotherapy can support us in feeling less alone and isolated. Normalizing depressive symptoms around this time of year can make us feel safe enough to open up and share how we're feeling rather than suffering in silence. Therapists can help us organize our thoughts and emotions and support us by coming up with strategies to manage our symptoms. 

Some strategies that can help with SAD include: 

  • Coming up with a schedule/routine that balances productivity with self-care practices
  • Engaging in activities that you once found joy and pleasure in
  • Socialization with people who are supportive
  • Daily reflective practices, such as journalling and meditation, can help us be more aware of our emotions
  • Using light therapy
  • Getting outside during daylight hours and engaging in physical activity
  • If you're on medications such as anti-depressants, ensure that you are taking your medications as prescribed and consulting with your physician as needed
  • Coming up with a safety plan for the fall/winter months if you know you're at risk for SAD   

It's important to note that not every strategy will work for each person, and it may take some time to figure out what works for you. One of the biggest misconceptions of coping skills/strategies is that they will take away our pain - this is not the goal. Coping strategies will give us the confidence to sit with the unwanted emotion until it passes, which will help us trust our ability to manage it over time.
Author: Victoria Cavaliere, Registered Social Worker, BSW, MSW, RSW