How to fend off seasonal affective disorder this winter in the pandemic

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Sometimes, something as simple as changing your mindset can drastically improve your mood. Crystal Cox/Business Insider
  • Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker, mental strength coach, and international bestselling author.
  • As we approach our first winter in a pandemic, she says it’s more critical than ever to prepare ourselves for the potential onset of seasonal affective disorder – also known as SAD.
  • Morin recommends getting sunlight early in the day, whether by sitting next to a sunny window or taking a brisk walk during a screen break, and scheduling small events to look forward to.
  • If you’re consistently having trouble improving your mood, speak with your doctor about your symptoms and see what therapies they suggest.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Darker days and colder temperatures can be a recipe for seasonal depression. Add in the stress of the pandemic and we may be more susceptible than ever to seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, this year.

While there’s no full-proof way to prevent seasonal depression, there are some steps you might be able to take to fend off seasonal affective disorder this year — even when you’re experiencing cabin fever.

Get sunlight early in the day

There’s a lot of evidence that getting sunlight early in the day can be good for your brain and your body. So if you can get outside in the morning or at least sit near a sunny window, it might do wonders for your mood.

Going for a walk during your lunch break might help too. Not only can a little fresh air and physical activity boost your mood, but seeing some sunlight in the middle of the day can give you a natural boost in your mood and energy.

This can be especially important if you’re working from home. Taking a little break to get outside and see something other than the walls inside your house may be a much-needed break.


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Schedule something fun

As the days blur together during the pandemic, it’s easy to lose track of time. And you might get stuck in a rut as every day seems to be the same.

Research shows one of the best things you can do for your mental health is schedule something fun. It doesn’t have to be anything big. You might schedule movie and pizza night with the family for Friday night. Or you might decide to watch a movie with a friend via Zoom on Saturday.

But the key is to put something fun in your schedule. You’ll feel better when you have something to look forward to.

You’ll get another boost in your mood when you do that fun activity. And your mood is likely to stay elevated for a bit when that fun thing is over because you’ll have created a positive memory.

So make sure you have fun things to look forward to this winter. Schedule something fun every week so you always have something to look forward to.

Change the way you think about winter

If you find yourself thinking about the horrible aspects of winter, you’re likely to feel worse. Changing the way you think about this time of year might help.

For example, if you find yourself thinking, “I can’t do anything fun this time of year. It’s too dark and cold,” you’ll likely dislike the winter months.

You can appreciate the winter a bit more if you remind yourself, “It’s darker earlier but this is a chance to spend more time with family or do more indoor activities.”

You might also benefit from picking up some winter activities — like skiing or hiking.

Having fun things you can do in the winter might change your mindset. You might start to look forward to the winter when you find something you like about it.

Read more: 7 ways entrepreneurs and business owners can better manage their mental health and wellbeing

Try light therapy

There are special bright lights that can help combat seasonal depression. Using one for 30 to 45 minutes every morning might help make up for the diminished natural light during the winter.

Light therapy isn’t a cure for seasonal affective disorder, but studies show it can ease the symptoms. It may be a simple but effective way to help you feel better this winter when social distancing measures may make it even more difficult than usual to get natural light.

Get professional help

If you start sinking into depression, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. You might start by talking to your doctor. Your physician might want to check your vitamin D level, which can get low in the absence of sunlight.

Your physician might also be willing to prescribe medication. Antidepressants may be able to relieve your symptoms.

Your doctor might refer you to therapy as well. While therapy can’t fix the pandemic or change the dark winter, studies show it can ease the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and even prevent it from happening in the future.