Seasonal Affective Disorder


woman staring out window. Seasonal Affective DisorderIf you’re in Iowa, you know all too well the slump of the winter months. Increase in illness in ourselves and our kids, snow days, negative degree weather, and icy/snowy roads leads many of us to hunker in and decrease our overall activity during the winter months.

We all know about the winter blues but for some, this can lead to what’s known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. This disorder occurs at the same time of the year, typically when seasons change. Most people who experience SAD notice a change in overall mood and behaviors in late fall or early winter and do see relief by Spring. The overall symptoms you might experience are similar to other depressive disorders, SAD is just a type of depression that affects individuals recurrently during season changes. Along with typical depressive symptoms, you might be feeling an increase in: oversleeping, overeating, and social withdrawal. 

If you know your overall mood decreases during the winter months, here are some things you can do to help.

Explore winter activities/interests 

So many of my interests/activities involve the outdoors, which when we live in Iowa, can be impacted during the winter months. Planning to get outdoors as much as possible and within reason despite the cold is so incredibly helpful! You can also see if there are different winter activities you might like. Maybe it’s trying ice skating, sledding, or even snow shoeing! I also recommend getting outside everyday. Even if it’s cold out! Go for a quick walk or bundle up the kids and go outside. You won’t regret it. 

Get cozy

Reframing the winter months as a purposeful time to slow down and focus on what we can do helps relieve the downside of not being able to get outside as much during the winter months. In our family, by the end of fall, life slows down, activities end, etc. I take advantage of this time, knowing it is is temporary. When Spring and Summer comes, things get more busy. 

There is nothing better during the winter than having a cozy night inside. Have a movie night, put puzzles together, play games, or read together as a family. Maybe it’s learning a new hobby like crocheting, learning an instrument, etc. 

Plan something you can look forward to

Whether that’s a staycation or even a trip to somewhere warm- planning something during the winter months can give you something to look forward to and a relief from the cold and snow. Our family plans a mid winter mini vacation to a hotel and swimming that has become a welcome retreat and change of pace from the ordinary winter days.

Light Therapy

Look into light therapy- which is exactly as it sounds. It involves sitting in front of a light box (10,000 lux) daily for 20-30 mins which helps make up for the decrease in natural sunshine. I’ve never tried light therapy but I know individuals who have tried it and does help. 

Therapy and Medication

And lastly, are talk therapy and medication. Sometimes the above options just aren’t cutting it and your symptoms are persisting. If so, it might be beneficial to look into therapy or even medication, especially if this is known to impact you severely during the winter months. You don’t have to suffer through- there are options and help out there! 


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