How can I best fight the winter blues?

Every winter I find myself getting sad because of the weather. How can I fight this?

Cimberly R. Nesker
Cimberly R. Nesker
Registered Psychotherapist (3579)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is a term that reflects how many people are affected by the changing seasons, especially fall to winter.  Everyone suffers with some form of this (lessened activity levels, increased isolation, etc.) while some find that this time of year can put them into a deeper depression. If you have noticed that this happens frequently, there are some ways you can definitely help yourself going forward:

1. Attend therapy to learn strategies and tools to help you to manage your mood.  It's important to stay within the therapy until you feel you have mastered these tools. 

2. Push yourself to interact more with your social groups and other positive activities. It's easy to go out and spend the day outside in the summer months, when the temperature is warm and the sun shines for long periods of the day, but it seems harder to find fun ways to spend your time when the temperature drops and darkness comes on so quickly.  Perhaps winter time could become the time of year where you and your friends have weekly board game nights, complete with hot chocolate and a fire?

3. You may want to consider the purchase of a S.A.D. Light.  These are lights that expose you to additional ultra violet light to increase the vitamin D in our bodies, as well as the release of growth hormone (which releases when we wake up). There are mixed reviews of these products, however, and they can be expensive. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Christy  Fogg
Christy Fogg
Marriage, Family, Individual, Premarital, and Teen Counseling

I would suggest some holistic approaches, such as getting your Vitamin D and iron levels checked. Make sure you are eating well, exercising, and getting outside when you can. Take a trip to someplace warm if possible. Use a sun lamp in the morning for 30 minutes to simulate sunlight. Seek professional health to gain coping skills and other ways to manage symptoms.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Frank Theus
Frank Theus
MA, LPC, NCC, CSAT

Thank you for sharing. It seems like since the "winter blues" happens to you every year it may also be impacting your quality of life and possibly relationships. What you report sounds like you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and is quite common to many from about fall thru winter seasons; but, also can impact folks during the Spring and summer months.

The best care and treatment for SAD includes discussing it with your PCP (primary care physician), integrating light therapy (full-spectrum lighting) throughout home and workplace (where possible), psychotherapy, and possibly medications (e.g. Wellbutrin XL, Aplenzin).

Be sure to exercise good self-care and checkout the Mayo Clinic's website for SAD here: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/definition/con-20021047.  

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Richie (Yerachmiel)  Donowitz
Richie (Yerachmiel) Donowitz
Experienced - Compassionate- Measurable Results

Light therapy is very helpful. You are not alone. The name for the condition is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). You might want to see a therapist to assist you putting in place a behavioral program to help change the way you feel.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Kimberly  Swanson
Kimberly Swanson
Experienced psychologist with an emphasis in health psychology

The winter blues can be really tough to deal with, and are quit common. Because the winter blues can be caused by a variety of things, if you have not been evaluated by your healthcare provider I highly recommend you do so.  

Here are some key tips I use to help individuals cope with the winter blues:

1) The winter blues can be caused by the seasonal invariable fluctuations in daylight.  Using light box therapy is one way to help.  Light box therapy mimics outdoor light. Researchers believe this type of light causes changes in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of the winter blues.  All light boxes are designed to do the same thing, but one may work better for you than another. For some, the use of light box therapy may be more effective when combined with other treatments for the winter blues such as counseling and/or medications for depression. it is always best to talk to your health care provider about choosing and using a light box so the treatment and dosage is right for you.

2) Keep a consistent routine that does not vary with seasons, vacation, feeling well or feeling bad. Consistency is key to keep a stable mood.  Keep consistent with sleep and wake times, the times of day you eat, exercise, and socializing with others.  The more consistent you can be the better. Your brain knows what to expect from you and when.

3) Exercise!  Exercise is not only great to help you sleep better and shed pounds.  Exercise is also the world's most underused anti-anxiety and ant-depression tool.  When you exercise your brain literally releases its own (endogenous) chemicals to alleviate anxiety and depression such as serotonin (a common substance in anti-depression and anti-anxiety medications).  Exercising every day is giving yourself a dose of your body's anti-anxiety and anti-depression substances, which is amazing.

4) Sleep is a huge predictor of mood.  In fact, sleeping longer than 7-9 hours per day is a strong predictor of a depressive episode.  Just as insomnia and depression are intimately related.  Consistently practicing sleep hygiene is key to preventing a mood episode. The more consistent you are the more you will go to sleep and stay asleep during the times you want to.  This includes 1) going to bed at the same time every night; 2) waking up at the same time every morning (even if you slept poorly the night before); 3) avoiding naps, but if you need a nap it is best to do so every day around the same time before 2pm and to not nap for more than 30 minutes; 4) using the bed for sleep and sex only (so, no TV, no computers, no smart phones); and 5) limiting caffeine to no more that 250 mg/per day (two 8 ounce cups).  The phone app Sleepio is a tool that can help you adopt the above steps.  If you are having trouble adopting or maintaining this routine, see your health care provider or counselor for further evaluation and help you get on track.

5) Limit alcohol intake and other substances of abuse. Most of which "depress" your nervous system.  When you add a depressant to an already depressed nervous system, even though you may feel temporary relief, you create a ceiling for how much your mood will improve.  For specific guidance on "safe drinking" guidelines see the CDC's Facts About Moderate Drinking at:

 https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm.

6) Keep your social life.  Positive social support is the strongest and most robust tool we have to cope with stress, low moods and adversity in life.  Social support can be a friend you know will pick of the phone when you call.  It does not have to be someone that is nearby.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Michele Ramey
Michele Ramey
MRTherapy, LLC- Because Help Is One Of A Kind

Seasonal depression may be something you are experiencing. The great thing is that every fight can be won with a plan. You can create a game plan for what do to or where to be during this season. I would connect with someone to create that plan. Implement it when the winter season comes again and see if you have the same results as last year without having a plan.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Jennifer Gerlach
Jennifer Gerlach
Your Story Matters

I am glad that you are getting ahead of this by noticing this seasonal pattern to your depression. Winter depression (seasonal affective) is something that affects a lot of people both people who also deal with other kinds of depression that happens to get worse in the winter as well as people who just deal with depression in the winter. Light affects how our bodies release and absorb neurotransmitters such as serotonin and most believe that a major contributing factor for winter depression is that we get less light when it is colder outside and darker outside. Exposure to light can make a big difference. If you are someone who is awake during the day (not someone who works the night shift :) )---one simple change you can make is keeping your curtains in your bedroom light enough as to let some light in in the morning. This will give you light right off the start of the day and can make it easier to get going in the morning. Beyond this, keeping windows cleared from blinds so that you get that natural light or even taking a short 10 or 15 minute walk each day can get you both light and exercise to help fight off the depression. Outside this, as others have suggested a light box is a popular method of warding off the depression however some of these may expose you to UV light and so this is something to check in with both with the light box manufacturer and with your doctor to make sure you have a good understanding of the risks and benefits for that. Lastly, just making sure you continue to do things that lift your mood, that you have time with other people, and that you reach out if you do find yourself in a space of needing help are all things you can do to ward off the depression. Wishing you well!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Christina McGrath Fair
Christina McGrath Fair
"Enlightenment is when a wave realizes it is the ocean." -Thich Nhat Hanh

This is actually pretty common. When winter hits, we tend to find ourselves huddled inside from the cold. Not to mention the sun is out for a much shorter time. It will be helpful to get as much sunlight as possible. Get outside when you can. Open up the blinds and drapes. Use a sunlight if you want to (amazon has some for reasonable prices). Stay connected to friends and family. Try to engage in activities that make you feel positive, productive, and connected. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

Cold climate is often accompanied by grey skies, snow and ice. The elements along with wind, windchill and severely cold temperatures may lead to feelings of sadness, anxiety, and low energy. For some people these symptoms occur each year from late fall to early spring and may be suffering from a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Whether you have been diagnosed with SAD or are finding yourself struggling with the “winter blues” for the first time here are some suggestions for feeling better and staying healthy.

1. Nutrition

 Most likely you have heard the term “comfort food.” These foods and snacks are high in carbohydrates, sugar and fat. Avoid overeating cookies, cakes and candy. Chose vegetables, fruit and protein for snacks and plan balanced meals. If you find yourself wanting to eat or snack throughout the day, ask yourself why you are eating. Are you hungry? Or Are you eating because you are bored?

2. Alcohol

Keep in mind that alcohol is a depressant so consuming wine, beer or liquor when already feeling sad, anxious or depressed will only add to your symptoms. Do not consume alcohol while engaging in outdoor activities such as snow removal, skiing, or ice fishing. If you find yourself reaching for an additional glass of wine or beer be mindful and ask whether you are doing it due to boredom. Instead of mindlessly taking another glass of alcohol, drink a glass of water.

3. Sunlight

Get out in the sunlight or brightly lit spaces, especially early in the day.

4. Be active

If you are unable to go to your favorite gym, exercise class or go for a run, find a way to stay active in your home. There are a lot of short, instructional programs available on YouTube that you can follow to do some gently yoga, dance, or do strengthening exercises using only your body weight.

5.  Reach out for help

Confide in someone you trust about how you are feeling. Do not hesitate to contact a counselor if you feel that you are becoming more depressed and anxious. If you experience thoughts of suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Dawn M. Reilly, Psy.D.
Dawn M. Reilly, Psy.D.
It's never too late

First of all, it is excellent that you are self aware and able to identify the pattern to your moods. Many people suffer from the winter blues, which is called Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Some people notice that during the Fall and Winter months, they tend to struggle with signs and symptoms of depression such as sadness or hopelessness, lethargy, sleeping to much or too little, changes in appetite, loss of interest in usual interests, and possibly suicidal thoughts.  It would be best to consult with a therapist experienced in this disorder, as they will be able to guide you towards possible solutions such as changing negative thought patterns, light therapy, exercise, nutritional support, and possibly medication. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Camille Neal
Camille Neal
LPCA, LCASA, DBT

Many peope uffer from changes in mood when the winter time comes. The amount of daylight hours decreases significantly. Most times it is dark when you go to work and dark when you return home. There are special lights that can be used during the winter season to counteract the "winter time blues." Also, paying attention to self care. Are you sleeping enough, attending to physical illness? Exercising and eating a balanced diet? Make sure to schedule fun activities and spend time with loved ones. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sara Makin, M.S.Ed.,NCC
Sara Makin, M.S.Ed.,NCC
#1 Best Selling Author & Counselor

About 3 million people in the United States suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression occurs during the same season every year. You might have feel feeling depressed the past two winters, but cheered up during the warmer months. Or you may have felt down during the summer.

Everyone could get seasonal depression, but it tends to be much more common in :

  • People who have families who have SAD
  • Women
  • Individuals between 15 and 55 years old
  • Individuals who live in an areas where winter daylight time is very short


No mental health experts are exactly sure of what specifically causes SAD, but many think lack of sunlight is a big trigger. This lack of light could mess up your circadian rhythms or cause problems with serotonin which is the chemical that affects your mood.

You might be wondering if you have seasonal depression or SAD. Here are the symptoms:

  • Feeling grumpy, sad , nervous of having mood swings
  • Anhedonia or lack of pleasure in things you normally love
  • Eating much more or less than usual
  • Gaining weight
  • Sleeping a lot more than you normally do, but still feeling slugging
  • Difficulty concentrating

It is so important to look at SAD in a holistic manner before getting diagnosed. In addition to therapy, it's crucial to see your doctor so she or he can run blood tests to rule out any other conditions that may be making you feel blue. One of these common ones is hypothyroidism or low thyroid. At Makin Wellness, we could do the mental heath assessment .

Treatment

There are multiple ways to help treat seasonal depression. Light therapy can be used, but counseling is one of the most effective ways of treating SAD. Cognitive behavioral therapy with a skilled therapist can help you learn more about seasonal depression , how to manage your symptoms and ways to prevent future episodes. Medication can also be prescribed and taken to help alleviate some or your symptoms. Antidepressants such as Zoloft, Effexor and Wellbutrin are most commonly prescribed for SAD. Be sure to talk with your doctor and therapist about any side effects from your medication.



The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

One theory is that instead of "fighting" your feelings, accept your sad feelings and work with them.   Feeling sad may open many doors to reflect and make peace with the source of your sadness.

Also, I believe fighting against the natural cycle of rest and hibernation may not even be possible to succeed.   Winter for most creatures is a time of withdrawal and slowdown.  Our bodies and moods are part of nature as well.  Fighting what is part of nature seems like a tiring fight which the person will lose.

Last point, there are the winter holidays to break up the dark and cold of winter.   Maybe you can invent some of your own winter celebrations so you'll have a few gatherings to look forward to hosting.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Kim Hollingdale
Kim Hollingdale
Mind-Body Approaches to Stress, Depression & Anxiety

Sometimes its quite literally the lack of sunshine that can affect our mood - in these cases it can be worth experimenting with a sun lamp, to boost your dose of vitamin D, when the sun isn't naturally out. Also consider, what is it that the change in weather, changes in your life? If for example, when its sunny you are an outdoorsy, active person and when the weather changes, you're whole activity level changes along with it, you could explore how to get some of that activity replicated indoors in the winter months.

Melissa Austin
Melissa Austin
Helping children and families become resilient

Change your total daily routine, different route, different lunch, different afternoon.  Sit outside for 10 minutes three times every day, use a therapy light during the day, aroma-therapy oils for stimulation, but....keep your routine bedtimes and wake up times......and exercise at least 3 times per week,  if after several weeks you are not feeling better....talk with your doctor.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Marquita Johnson
Marquita Johnson
LPC, MDiv, NCC, DCC

Seasonal depression can be difficult due to the weather being a primary trigger. Understanding that we have very little control over the weather, therefore we can focus on the things we can change. Exercising, meditation, guided imagery, and deep breathing can be beneficial to combat seasonal depression. It may help to join a support group and seek out therapy to assist you on this healing journey.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Lauren Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, BC-TMH, CCTP, CCH
Lauren Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, BC-TMH, CCTP, CCH
I tailor my therapeutic approach to each client's strengths and goals

There can be lots of different factors contributing to this. Here are some possible tips:

  • Consider if you know anything about what specifically is making you feel sad? If you're looking for activities because you cannot participate in what you like to do in the warmer months, consider finding some indoor winter activities
  • Connect with others. One idea is to join a group (such as a book club) that meets regularly. This could give you something to look forward to regardless of the colder weather.
  • Enjoy the sunshine from indoors. You may notice that sometimes looks are deceiving women is bright and sunny outside, but is also quite cold when you open the door. If you are staying inside for the day, consider allowing yourself to enjoy the sunlight without specifically considering that it is also cold.
  • Consider using a light box. Certain types of light boxes are designed to help with the "winter blues." You can find more information here: http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/light-therapy/home/ovc-20197416
  • Recently, one of the nurse practitioners that I work with has been checking a lot of vitamin D and vitamin B12 levels and she says the lower levels of these vitamins can contribute to feelings of less motivation or energy than is desired.
  • Each of us has days when we are not thrilled about the weather and may be feeling sort of "bummed" or "down." If you find yourself having these days frequently or for several consecutive days in the above strategies are not helping, consider talking with a therapist about more specific strategies that may be of help to you. Also, because  if everything you would see is likely to live in your area, they would be familiar with the weather patterns where you are and may have some tips that they use for themselves or With other clients.
The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal, as if you want to hurt or kill yourself or someone else, or are in crisis, call 800-273-8255 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), call 911, or proceed to your local emergency room.
Darlene Viggiano
Darlene Viggiano
Let Your Inner Light Shine!
Whenever the weather is good, get as much sunlight as you...  (more)Whenever the weather is good, get as much sunlight as you can. When it's not, use special lighting in your home that mimics sunlight. Also, be sure you're getting enough vitamin D in your diet. The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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