Weathering winter: Strategies for coping with seasonal affective disorder

The change in seasons brings on colder temperatures and shorter, darker days. If you’ve ever found yourself consistently feeling sad, more irritable, and lacking energy during the winter months, you may be one of the many people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

What is seasonal affective disorder?

SAD is a type of depression linked to specific seasons, most commonly occurring in the winter months. Researchers are still determining the cause of SAD, but believe it is linked to a lack of sunlight, which affects serotonin levels.

People with SAD may experience:

  • persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • low energy levels
  • loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • difficulty concentrating
  • changes in sleep or appetite

3 strategies for managing seasonal affective disorder

There are steps you can take to help manage SAD including:

  1. Light exposure – Try to spend time each day in natural sunlight. Take a walk outside on your lunch break or if you’re indoors, position yourself near a sunny window. Light therapy mimics natural sunlight and is another widely used treatment option.
  2. Healthy lifestyle – Prioritize your physical health with regular exercise and a nutritious diet to improve your mood and increase your energy levels.
  3. Practice mindfulness – Build positive habits into your daily routine such as meditation, positive affirmations or deep breathing.


Find support

Alberta Primary Care Networks offer a variety of free mental health support ranging from one-on-one counselling to in-person and virtual workshops. Visit or talk to your family doctor to learn more about the support available to you.

If you are in a crisis, struggling with severe depression or anxiety or having suicidal thoughts, please call the Distress Centre’s 24-hour helpline at 403-266-4357 or call 211.

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