Knowledge Is Power: Avoid SAD This Winter

November 23, 2020 Providence News Team

It may be as simple as the “winter blues” but it might be much more serious. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes as the seasons change.

SAD symptoms include:

  • In some instances, the sadness and/or depression can lead to self-harm or suicidal thoughts. This year, as we all deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, this can be an especially stressful time. It is normal that you or your loved ones might feel anxious, sad, scared or angry. You are not alone. It is okay to seek out and ask for help.Appetite changes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Disrupted sleep habits
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Lonely or guilty feelings
  • Loss of interest/feeling siloed
  • Sudden weight gain/loss

There are no known causes for SAD (or why it affects more women than men) but possible factors include:

  • Reduced light and shorter winter days (may cause biochemical changes that trigger seasonal depression)
  • Serotonin levels (often drop when there’s less sunlight)
  • Melatonin levels (that affect sleep patterns and mood may be affected by season changes)

The good news is there are treatment options if SAD is affecting you.


“As the seasons change, if your mood has shifted and it’s impacting your daily life, you should contact your primary care provider or a mental health professional,” said Marc Bouchard, D.O., medical director of Behavioral Health for Providence in Southwest Washington.

Treatment options include:

  • Vitamin D
  • Light Therapy
  • Medication
  • Psychotherapy

Avoid the Holiday Blues

As we enter this truly historic holiday season – including suggestions to not travel and to social distance – Dr. Bouchard reminds us that not everyone will enjoy the smell of pumpkin, the sights of Christmas lights or the sounds of carols.

Regular exercise, such as 30 minutes three times a week, remains one of the most effective ways to prevent depression. Additionally, people who report that they have someone to regularly confide in routinely rate themselves as less depressed than those who don’t.

“While it may be dreary and cold outside, we should continue to remain physically active, and people need to maintain meaningful social connections with friends and loved ones,” said Dr. Bouchard. “This year particularly, you need to be creative in connecting, even if by phone or video calls.”

Other simple ways to avoid feeling down include:

  • Ditch perfection
  • Don’t overcommit
  • Avoid volatile family situations
  • Watch bad habits
  • Try something new

“The bottom line is to understand what causes your negative feelings and do your best to improve the situation. If you find you are simply too overwhelmed or suffering from depression, seek professional advice,” said Dr. Bouchard.

Contact Olympia Psychiatry at 360-493-7060. They are open Monday-Thursday, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and Fridays, 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. They are located at 3425 Ensign Road NE, Suite 220 in Olympia.

Other state and national resources include:

  • If you need someone to talk to about stress due to COVID-19, call Washington Listens at 1-833-681-0211. Someone is available to talk from Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. TTY and language access services are available.
  • Crisis Text Line provides confidential text access from anywhere in the U.S. to a trained crisis counselor. Text HEAL to 741741 (24/7/365)
  • Crisis Connections connects people in physical, emotional and financial crisis to services. Call 866-4-CRISIS (866-427-4747)
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
  • Teen Link: call or text 866-833-6546
  • National Disaster Distress Helpline: 800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746.

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