What to Know

It is important to get treatment and find effective ways to cope with SAD because all forms of depression limit your ability to live your life to the fullest, enjoy time with loved ones, and function well at work or school. To cope with SAD, here are a few suggestions.

1. Prepare for shorter days. Set yourself up for the winter season by starting in the fall— regularly schedule mood-boosting activities, initiate contact with friends, find a new hobby, join a club, or engage in community service. Take part in these activities before the winter blues set.

2. Try a light box. Light therapy—exposure to artificial light to keep your circadian rhythm on track—is considered a first-line treatment for SAD. Light therapy or phototherapy boxes provide light that mimics sunshine. The light is much brighter than that of regular light bulbs and has different wavelengths. Sit in front of the light box for 20 to 30 minutes each day upon waking.

3. Use a dawn simulator. This device is an alarm clock that produces light that gradually increases in intensity, just like the sun. The best ones use full-spectrum light, which is closest to natural sunlight.

4. Consider medication. If light therapy does not completely relieve your symptoms, you might consider taking a prescription antidepressant from autumn until spring.

5. Prioritize social activities. Studies have found a relationship between social isolation and depression. Find creative and enjoyable ways to stay connected with others, like spending time

with loved ones at a local park, playing an outdoor sport, or joining a hiking club. If you cannot get out, Face Time or Zoom with friends and extended family members.

6. Use aromatherapy. A recent study found that essential oils can help lessen symptoms of depression by influencing the area of the brain that is responsible for controlling moods and the

internal clock. Using essential oils might be a simple and safe way to improve mental well- being, especially when paired with other soothing activities like a taking a bath.

7. Get into a routine. Perhaps you have trouble falling asleep and waking in the morning. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule and having good bedtime habits can improve your sleep. Avoid the use of electronic devices at least two hours before bedtime.

8. Prioritize physical activity. Regular exercise can help reduce the symptoms of SAD and offset weight gain. Outdoor exercise is most beneficial, but if it is too cold or icy, use a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine next to a window.

9. Get as much sun exposure as possible. Get outside as much as you can during the day to take advantage of what sunlight there is. Bundle up and take a walk around noon when the sun is brightest. When indoors keep your blinds open to let in as much natural light as possible.

10. Take a break. If you can, take a vacation to a warmer climate to escape the cold. Even a short break from your daily routine in a sunny place can be helpful. If travel is not an option, plan a “staycation”—take time off work and find ways to have fun within your own home and community.

11. Avoid alcohol. If you feel down, you might be more likely to drink alcohol, but drinking contributes to depression.

12. Write in a journal. Consistently using a journal can positively affect your mood because it helps you prioritize your problems and identify triggers. Write about your thoughts, feelings,and concerns each night to reflect on all that happened in the last 24 hours.

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