SAD and Blue: Ward off Winter Depression

By Valerie Tunks

If short days and cold weather have you feeling down, you’re not alone.  According to, the “winter blues” or clinically speaking, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), affects up to 5% of the population.  Feelings of fatigue, sadness, increased food cravings and irritability are common symptoms and may be a sign that you are suffering from winter depression.  If heading to Aruba for the winter isn’t an option, you may want to try some of these suggestions until it’s time to spring forward.

 A study by Duke University found exercise to be a more effective treatment for depression than  anti-depressants, with fewer relapses and a higher recovery rate.  So, get out and exercise.  Whether it’s a walk, jog or zumba class, exercise can help keep the blues at bay.  Not only is it good for your mood, it’s good for your body as well.

Shine Some Light
According to, light boxes can provide relief for SAD sufferers by using them once a day for thirty minutes.  Light boxes emit high intensities of light and produce similar effects to the sun’s natural rays. Light therapy is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood, easing SAD symptoms. The Mayo Clinic website offers some helpful tips on picking the right light therapy box for you.  If a light box isn’t covered by your insurance, try to get as much natural light as possible.  Go outside and get some sun or sit by a window with Southern exposure.

Catch some Z’s
Oversleeping and changes in sleep patterns can affect levels of melatonin, contributing to feelings of depression according to  Sticking to a regular sleep schedule and opening the blinds upon rising can help you feel better and provide added energy to help you get through the day.

Healthy Diet
If food cravings have you reaching for a bag of chips or candy bar, providing only a temporary energy boost, suggests reaching for a healthier snack like fruit.  While carbohydrate cravings may be intense, choose complex carbohydrates like whole grain pasta and rice which can keep you feeling fuller longer.  Eat at regular intervals and watch your energy increase.

Medication and Therapy
If you try these suggestions and aren’t feeling any relief, see your doctor who may prescribe medication or refer you to a therapist.  You may be suffering from a more severe case of winter depression or an underlying medical condition.    

Valerie Tunks is a nationally certified counselor and a life coach at Goose Creek Coaching. Valerie can be reached through the Goose Creek Coaching contact page.

Leave a Reply