Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Posted by Dr. Scott Wilson | 01-Dec-2021

The changing of seasons can alter our overall well-being on a variety of levels. We tend to eat differently; we may not get as much exercise, and our mental health can take a massive hit when the days become shorter and colder. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mental health condition that can arise during these short, cold days and long winter months. Here’s what you need to know about SAD and what can be done to help cope with the condition.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression brought on by a change in seasons; most often as we move from fall to winter. While many people experience some form of the blues during the winter months, seasonal affective disorder is quite different. SAD lasts considerably longer. It also has a more significant impact on energy levels and can severely impact both physical and emotional wellbeing.

What Are Some Symptoms Associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder often include:

  • A loss of energy or reduced vigor
  • A loss of interest in things that normally bring you joy
  • Significant changes in appetite or eating habits
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Constant feelings of agitation
  • An overall sense of hopelessness

Of course, this list is only a guide and should not be used as the basis for any sort of self-diagnosis. If you believe you or someone close to you is experiencing any of these symptoms, the next step is to speak with a healthcare professional.

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder and Who is Affected?

While the specific cause isn’t fully understood, it is believed to be related to a lack of sunlight and generally affects those in more northern regions (i.e., further from the equator). SAD also affects adults more than children or teenagers, women more than men, and is believed to run in families. If you have a pre-existing form of depression or mental health challenge, you’re also more likely to experience SAD.

What Can You Do About Seasonal Affective Disorder?

In addition to seeking help from a trained mental health professional, there are some steps you can take to help mitigate the effects of SAD and get through our long, Canadian winter.

Make Friends with the Sun

Because we don’t have as much sunlight during the winter months, it’s that much more important to make the most of the opportunities we do have. Try adjusting your schedule if you can. A good tip is to wake up with the sunrise and soak up as much as you can, even if it’s only for a few minutes. It’s a peaceful way to start the day and rejuvenating way to start the day that can provide both physical and psychological benefits.

Get a Happy Lamp

Consider buying a “happy lamp.” This is a lamp that’s designed to help compensate for a lack of natural sunlight by tricking your mind into thinking you’re actually receiving natural sunlight. These devices are also known as light therapy boxes. They can provide exposure of 10,000 lux (the SI unit of illuminance), can be used for 20-30-minutes and can help reduce the symptoms associated with SAD. 

Consider a Vitamin D Supplement

A lack of Vitamin D has been associated with active mood disorders and most Canadians don’t get enough Vitamin D throughout the year. Since our bodies absorb Vitamin D primarily through contact with the sun on our skin, this only gets worse in the winter. A Vitamin D supplement can help to address this deficiency and there’s a variety of them available without a prescription. However, if you’re unsure which one is best for you, try speaking with your doctor or Pharmacist.

Make Exercise a Daily Occurrence

Exercise is an essential part of life year-round, but it can be highly beneficial if you’re suffering from symptoms of SAD as it helps to release dopamine and serotine to the brain. These neurotransmitters are connected to pleasure, peacefulness, and sleep. So, go for a walk or a hike or visit your local gym or community centre. If possible, do try doing these things with a friend for added benefit.

Visit a Massage Therapist

Massage therapy works wonders, and not just for your body but for your mind as well. While specifically focuses on relieving physical tension in your body, this process can also help to relive psychological tension as well.

Eat More Positive Mood-Boosting Foods

There’s no doubt that what we eat has a significant impact on how we feel, both physically and mentally. Some foods help to increase our brain’s production of dopamine and serotine, which directly impacts our mood. These foods are usually rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and mackerel. However, anything with Vitamin B12 can also help. This includes dark, leafy greens, such as spinach and kale.

Plan an Event So You Have Something to Look Forward To

SAD and other forms of depression can make you feel like nothing matters and there’s nothing to look forward to. One way to combat this is to plan to something. It can be an event or an activity – whatever that brings a sense of peace or joy. It if involves friends or family, so much the better.


If you’ve been struggling with feeling down and need help with getting through the winter, contact us today. Let us show you why, at Physiomed, Healthier Starts Here.

Dr. Scott Wilson

Dr. Scott Wilson is the Founder & Chairman of Physiomed; one of Canada’s largest franchised networks of inter-disciplinary healthcare clinics. A graduate of Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Dr. Wilson founded Physiomed in 1994 and has since grown Physiomed to over 30 clinics in Southern Ontario and British Columbia. With hundreds of practitioners from over a dozen disciplines, Dr. Wilson and Physiomed have helped over 100,000 Canadians with physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, orthotic therapy, compression therapy and clinical conditioning as part of a program of rehabilitation and health optimization. In addition to helping patients improve their physical and mental well-being, Dr. Wilson has also mentored hundreds of practitioners to provide better care while enjoying more fulfilling careers. He is also a keynote speaker on many health related topics including how physiotherapy, chiropractic and health & wellness treatment can help with stress, weight loss, and unlocking the true potential within to achieve lasting physical well-being.

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