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How to Manage the "Winter Blues"

Feeling SAD? Then this post is for you! Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) is something that about 5% of the US population experiences each year, is most prevalent in women (or AFABs) and tends to onset between 20-30 years of age. While it is seen worldwide, generally those who are further from the equator are more at risk (Mental Health America).

According to John Hopkin's Medicine, there are two types of SAD to note and significant symptoms associated with SAD:

Fall-onset: This is also called "winter depression." Symptoms of depression begin in the late fall to early winter months and ease during the summer months.

Spring-onset:This is also called "summer depression." Symptoms of depression begin in late spring to early summer. This type is much less common.

And the following are the most common symptoms:

  • increased sleep and daytime drowsiness

  • loss of interest and pleasure in activities formerly enjoyed

  • social withdrawal and increased sensitivity to rejection

  • irritability and anxiety

  • feelings of guilt and hopelessness

  • fatigue or low energy level

  • decreased sex drive

  • decreased ability to focus or concentrate

  • trouble thinking clearly

  • increased appetite especially for sweets and carbohydrates

  • weight gain

  • physical symptoms such as headaches

These symptoms tend to come back and then improve at about the same times every year.

Regardless of whether or not you have been formally diagnosed or if you have simply noticed a seasonal pattern to your mood, here are some helpful tips to manage your “winter blues” (John Hopkin's Medicine):

  • Exposure to sunlight

  • Light therapy

  • Psychotherapy

  • Antidepressants

  • Set realistic goals in light of the depression, including not overfilling your plate.

  • Try to do things that you usually enjoy or that help you feel better, such as watching a movie or social activities.

  • Get regular exercise.

  • Remember that your mood will get better slowly, not right away.

  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.

  • Stay away from alcohol and drugs - these can make depression worse.

  • Try to delay any big decisions until the depression has lifted.

  • Try to be patient and replace some of your negative thoughts by focusing on the positives.

  • Let your family and friends support you!

And ultimately, I hope you can be gentle with yourself during this time!

One way we’ve fought the winter blues is by giving to those who could use our support. Last month we gave to Sassafras Earth Education. Sassafras offers programs, events and trainings that reconnect youth and adults to the earth through native mentoring practices, to create a truly equitable community space and to restore earth-based regenerative indigenous cultures. They engage in LandBack initiatives and developed LandCulture project, a local permaculture project that restores the land to first people's values and practices. Sassafras offers trainings for organizations that want to educate themselves, improve their understanding and break with harmful patterns rooted in colonialism. Sassafras speaks out in their island community and beyond, on native matters and encourages people to activate.


Kim Johnson, LMHC, MT-BC, is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) and board certified music therapist (MT-BC) who graduated with her master’s from Lesley University in 2017. She has experience with adults and adolescents in group private practice and community mental health settings. The levels of care she has worked in are outpatient, with both individual and group therapy and in partial hospital programs for mental health and substance use disorders. Additionally, she has had intensive training in dialectical behavioral therapy and cognitive processing therapy for PTSD.

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