Seasonal Affective Disorder: How to cope with feeling SAD

When the clocks go back, it can have quite the impact on everyday life. Office workers across the country will barely see light of day as they drive to and from work during dawn and dusk. You may find it harder to stick to your morning routine or get that after work walk in. For some people, however, daylight savings has more of an impact than you may think.

Do you feel like all of the energy has been zapped out of your body when it’s dark by four, or the activities you enjoyed doing in the summer seem like too much effort to bare participating in? You may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, or Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern, is a form of depression where the symptoms, similar to that of depression, usually become more apparent during the winter months. However there are some cases where people feel worse during the summer and better in the winter.

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

It is not fully understood what causes SAD, however it can be assumed that it is linked with the lack of exposure to sunlight during the darker autumn and winter months.

It is believed that the lack of sunlight affects the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which may in turn affects your body clock, serotonin levels, and production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy.

Seasonal Affective Disorder may also been passed down through genes. You’re also more likely to feel the effect of SAD if you already experience other mental health issues such as clinical depression, anxiety, or bipolar.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

  • Lack of energy
  • A persistent low mood
  • Loss of interest in activities you’d usually find pleasure in
  • Irritability, feeling more anxious or agitated
  • Sleeping in longer and having difficulty getting yourself up in the morning

Other more severe symptoms include:

  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Common symptoms of depression such as feeling empty and numb

How to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Luckily, there are ways to treat SAD, or at least reduce the feelings associated with the condition.


There are various coping mechanisms to help improve your mental wellbeing, which in turn can help reduce the symptoms of SAD.

Spend as much time outside as possible

It is believed that one of the main causes of winter depression is the lack of sunlight. This is especially difficult for people who work during the day. Make sure you make the most of your breaks, go for a short walk, or just sit outside for a bit. Fresh air is the best medicine!

Exercise regularly

Exercising is a crucial if you’re wanting to improve your mental health. It can be difficult to motivate yourself to get active during the cold, dark winter months. Even if it’s just one or two days a week for half an hour, the benefits that exercising can have on your mental wellbeing include increased self-esteem and reduced feelings of depression. So it’s definitely worth it if you think you might have SAD.

Light therapy

Phototherapy, more commonly known as light therapy, is the treatment method of using artificial light as a substitute for the usual sunlight you’d receive during the summer time that lifts your mood.

It’s very easy to get yourself a light box online, which mimics sunlight. Once you have one, you simply sit with the light shining on your face. Make sure your read the instructions as guidance may vary for each manufacturer.

If your eyes are sensitive to light, or if you take medication that affects your light sensitivity, you should not use light therapy.


One form of treatment that has risen is popularity over the past few years is talking therapy, such as counselling on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). As the awareness of mental health has increased, so has the recognition of the importance of speaking up. Talking to a professional if you are struggling with symptoms of SAD could have a huge impact and overtime you’ll begin to notice improvements on your mental health.


With SAD sharing many of the symptoms associated with depression, and also being referred to as ‘Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern’, being prescribed a repeat prescription of antidepressants could help to treat the disorder.

Related article: Antidepressant Side Effects & the Different Types

If you are already on a repeat prescription, whether it be for antidepressants or any prescribed medication, Hey Pharmacist can help you stay on track with your medication. Downloading the app today and signing up with NHS login means that re-ordering your medication takes as little as two taps.

It’s important to remember that the dark winter days are only temporary. Focus on what brings you joy, make sure you stay active, and connect with friends. However, if you think you have SAD and you’re really struggling to cope, make sure you see your GP who can carry out a mental health assessment.