How to Survive the Winter Blues

Published on: Nov 20, 2020fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round
How to Survive the Winter BluesDaniel Fishel
The Story

Seasonal affective disorder has the most appropriate acronym ever: SAD. And this year, it has the potential to get even sadder.

Why is that?

Isolation nation, thanks to COVID-19. With more time indoors, a socially distant winter on the horizon, and the number of cases rising, some of the usual outlets to combat SAD (holiday parties, cozy dinners in crowded restaurants) might look a liiiittle different.

Back up. What exactly is seasonal affective disorder, and do I have it?

It’s a form of depression that affects people during the same season every year (most often in fall and winter). Experts say darker and colder days are to thank. It affects around 5 percent of the US population, and largely women. Symptoms are consistent with depression and include things like irritability, difficulty concentrating, hopelessness, and low energy. If you suffer from fall and winter SAD, you may also feel super tired, and crave carbs (more than usual).

Well, that’s me all the time this year. 

You’re not alone. Studies show that the proportion of Americans exhibiting symptoms of depression has increased dramatically since the pandemic started—all the more reason to be on alert for the onset of SAD. 

Tell me how to make it better. 

Therapy with a professional might help you learn to manage it. Or you can try one of these at-home remedies:

  • For when you realize your step count is at 20Take a walk. This probably seems like obvious advice, but exposure to sunlight is key to fighting SAD. So is exercise. Two birds, one pedestrian stone. Try to schedule your walks to hold you accountable. If you don’t have time for a walk, sit by the window. Because when it comes to SAD, some sunlight is better than no sunlight. 

  • For when the walk doesn’t do it for youLeave the light on. Light therapy—conducted with exposure to a lamp or box that emits bright light—is a proven tool for combating SAD. The device is meant to be as good as natural light and is most effective in the AM. Turns out not all light therapy is created equal, and it’s not meant for everyone. Here’s where we remind you to talk to a medical professional about whether light therapy may be right for you, and to do more research on the treatment.

  • For when you need to talk it outThere are professionals for that. Many mental health professionals are seeing clients remotely now, which broadens the scope of people you can talk to. Look into services like Better Help and Frame to find a therapist that works for you. More on teletherapy here. Reaching out to friends and family can also help ease feelings of isolation


Winter is coming. Whether you’ve dealt with SAD before or are uniquely susceptible because of the pandemic, it’s important to know you’re not alone and that there are resources available to help. 

Skimm'd by Becky Murray, Avery Carpenter Forrey, and Jane Ackermann

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