The Wellness Library

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder + What Treatments Might Work for Me?

by | Feb 8, 2023 | Wellness

If you’ve never quite been able to put your finger on why you feel less energetic, more lethargic and generally down during the winter months, you could be one of the many Americans experiencing seasonal affective disorder. Fortunately, SAD has become widely understood over the last several years and there are more treatment options than ever to support you through the long winter months. Keep reading to learn about some of our favorite ways to combat seasonal affective disorder!

What is seasonal affective disorder?

You might be familiar with seasonal affective disorder, appropriately abbreviated as SAD. Mayo Clinic defines SAD as “a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons—SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year … your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, zapping your energy and making you feel moody.”

So how exactly can you boost your energy if you have SAD? Let’s chat.

RELATED: Is my fatigue normal?

Get a new gadget

Some research has shown light therapy as an effective treatment solution for treating SAD. While there are lots of light therapy boxes on the market these days, it’s important to find one that works well for you. Mayo Clinic helps break down the ins and outs of light therapy boxes, and why some might be more effective than others.

In general, you should be looking for a light box that provides an exposure of 10,000 lux and produces as little UV light as possible. Some other factors to consider include size, whether or not you need to plug it in, and whether or not it’s actually designed for SAD.

Our providers’ favorite light box is the Verilux HappyLight, which you can find on Amazon and at most major retailers! Verilux has expanded their product line and you can find HappyLight in just about every shape and size you’re looking for.

RELATED: Are you stressing yourself to fatigue?

Make sure you’re getting sufficient Vitamin D

If you’re experiencing seasonal affective disorder and live in a cold-weather location, it can be really difficult to get adequate Vitamin D during the winter months. Talk to your physician about getting your Vitamin D3 levels tested to see if you’re deficient and determine what options you have for supplementation.

Some brands on the market have developed Vitamin D sun lamps, which, while effective, can also have damaging effects on your eyes if not used properly. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider and follow manufacturer instructions should you choose to use a sun lamp! 

RELATED: How to keep your vitamin D levels balanced, especially if you live in Northern climate.

Lean on your stress management practices

It’s no secret that implementing daily mindfulness and meditation practices can be a game-changer for your mood year-round. Don’t forget to rely on those during the winter months too! While it can feel like the biggest task to get out of bed and turn on a 5-10 minute meditation in the morning, it can also have a huge impact on your mindset. My personal favorite meditation app is Headspace, but you can also look to Insight Timer for a cost effective solution!

Plan something to look forward to 

A practice that I’ve personally implemented in the last couple of years has been planning something to look forward to during the long winter months. Consider what time of the year you feel the most down, and plan something during that time for you to look forward to! Some things I’ve planned for myself in the past:

  • Weekend trip to a sunny destination to soak up the warmth and get allll the vitamin D.
  • Day-trip to the spa. Some favorites have included Idlewild, Four Seasons and Woodhouse Spa.
  • Stay-cation at a boutique hotel in Minneapolis or Stillwater. Still close to home, but can give you a change of scenery and a fresh perspective.

If you or someone you know has struggled with seasonal affective disorder, you probably know how debilitating it can feel when you’re in the midst of it. Don’t forget to lean on your support system for some extra TLC during these winter months and use the tips we shared above for an extra boost during the winter months.

And if you’re just not recovering using these tips, your fatigue and lethargy could mean something else. Check in with your provider for additional support and to get to the root cause.


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