5 Tips to Prepare for the Season of SAD

woman holding coffee mug during winter snowing

Up to 10% of the American population lives with SAD [Seasonal Affective Disorder]. In the fall and winter months, when the days are shortest, Seasonal Affective Disorder can be very challenging to deal with. As the name suggests, those who live with the disorder may experience a cluster of depressive symptoms such as feeling low or depressed, sleeping too much, experiencing low motivation, and so forth.

SAD can put a strain on those living with the condition. This post includes some tips to help you prepare for the upcoming season of SAD.

1. Speak to a Therapist Now

Those living with SAD may experience the symptoms primarily in these colder months, but that doesn’t mean those issues aren’t present otherwise. If you live with the mental illness but do not yet have a therapist, starting to see one as the fall season begins is a great idea. Working with a mental health professional will help you brainstorm for the upcoming changes in your mood and behavior. This tactic will make you prepared for any adverse consequences related to SAD. Planning ahead of time may allow you to function better at school, work, or in your relationships.

2. Try a Different Diet

With your therapist, you may explore behavioral strategies to organize a daily schedule. You can discuss changes in your diet that will help you avoid fare that exacerbate SAD symptoms, such as processed foods and refined sugars. You may also want to increase other foods that promote healthier, more balanced living, including dishes high in protein and vegetables.

3. Consider Taking Vitamin D Supplements

Most of us struggle with getting enough sunlight during the winter months. Our daily responsibilities keep us indoors for most of the day, causing a deficiency in Vitamin D. This lack of light can leave you feeling more down and lethargic than usual. It’s common for doctors to prescribe Vitamin D supplements during the winter months — and even well into the spring — to aid people in combatting the negative effects of not receiving enough sunlight. These effects can include feeling general fatigue and muscle soreness.

4. Begin Light Therapy

One of the most effective and recommended forms of treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder is light therapy. Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, helps those living with SAD to replace the sun’s natural rays. Light boxes are products that deliver light therapy. You can easily purchase them online.

General recommendations for SAD state that about one half hour of light therapy exposure every morning from fall to the onset of spring will help moderate symptoms. While you can buy a lightbox on your own, it should be noted that light therapy is a medical treatment and can interact with other conditions and medications. Remember to consult with a licensed medical provider before beginning light therapy.

5. Consider Taking Antidepressant Medication

A disruption in serotonin activity in the brain can cause seasonal affective disorder. As such, antidepressant medications can be helpful in treating the illness effectively. Particularly, SSRIs [Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors] such as fluoxetine [Prozac] and bupropion [Wellbutrin] have demonstrated some ability to alleviate the depressive symptoms associated with SAD.

It should be noted that medications can have adverse side effects. If you consider antidepressants as an option, please work with a licensed doctor or psychiatrist in monitoring their impact.

Even if you live with SAD, winter doesn’t have to be miserable. With effective treatments and diligent preparation, you might be able to enjoy the next few months as much as summer or spring.

Published by

Jor-El Caraballo

Talkspace Therapist