Tips to Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder

The therapists of Cityscape Counseling weigh in on their advice to manage Seasonal Depression, commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is when during the colder winter months when there is less sunlight available to us, we may find our mood is significantly affected. This often looks like a low mood, lack of motivation, feeling lethargic, crying, isolating and disconnecting from others, and not enjoying activities that you typically enjoy. This is different from regular depression when it is marked by the specific time of the year, which could be either winter or summer. 

Winter Depression

From our practice, here are ten pieces of advice that our therapists find helpful in battling depressive symptoms:

1. Take a walk in the outside natural light, even if it’s cold!

-Chelsea Hudson, LCPC

2. Cope ahead plans! We know when winter is coming- use your past lived experiences to prepare for what has historically felt most difficult or isolating in the colder months. Make plans in advance (and hold yourself to them) so that you have things to look forward to.

-Bari Rothfeld Spurgeon, LCSW, CADC

3. Acknowledging what it is about the season that contributes to depression. The more aware we are of these changes and causes for the mood shift, the more effectively we can cope ahead or know how to both accept and problem-solve through some of the issues as they arise.

-Dani Parmacek, LCPC, R-DMT

4. Engaging in values activities, self-soothing, connecting with loved ones.

-Clare Wierzel, LCPC

5.Vitamin D supplements and regular movement.

-Chelsea Dillavou, LCSW

6. Planning something exciting for the future can be helpful with seasonal depression. Whether it is a trip you’re planning for the spring to go visit a friend or even a reservation at a new restaurant you’ve been dying to try. When you have something to look forward to it can be motivating in getting you through the week especially when things feel particularly challenging.

-Jillian Ross, LCSW

7. Light therapy can be a great resource if you invest in a high-quality lamp and maintain consistency. A great way to do this is to make it a part of your morning routine. Read, sip on some coffee and then go about your day. This is a great website to use in finding a lamp!

-Sierra Petersen, LCSW

8. Seeking time outside, especially if the sun is out helps a lot with SAD. Another great intervention is filling the day with meaningful and purposeful events and tasks.

-Nicole Bentley, LCSW

9. One thing I have tried and have had clients try is light therapy— amazon has a wide variety of desk lights that mimic outdoor lighting and can be great for a Chicago winter. Give it a try!

-Jaclyn Feldman, LCSW

10. Staying connected with others even if it is only through text. Also, if you’re able, plan to get out of town for even just a day trip; it doesn’t have to be far or expensive, but it can be refreshing to leave and return. Having something to look forward to can make all the difference.

-Jennifer Klesman, LCSW

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