The second Saturday/Sunday we “fall back” and gain an hour of sleep overnight, but losing the hour of daylight at the end of the day, combined with the general issue of fewer hours of daylight during winter, can bring on the blues. In cold climates, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) tends to begin right around this time of year and last until the days get longer and we return to Daylight Savings Time.

PsychCentral lists quick facts about SAD:

  • You’re most likely to experience SAD if you’re a woman between 15 and 55.
  • One theory is that a lack of sunlight increases the body’s production of melatonin, which helps regulate sleep and can cause depression.
  • Light therapy successfully treats many SAD sufferers.

If you haven’t been diagnosed with SAD but feel that you experience mild symptoms of depression during the darker months, take these four tips from Dr. Tahir Sheikh, a psychiatrist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, Downers Grove, Illinois:

  1. Take a winter walk. “Bundle up and walk outside during your lunch hour, or take up a winter sport,” Sheikh advises.
  2. Spend time with people. You have your clients and team members at work, but don’t spend the rest of your time alone. Attend or host family dinners, meet friends for activities or volunteer in your community.
  3. Eat nutritionally. This is not the time to cut corners on a healthy diet! Stick with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meat.
  4. Exercise. You knew this tip was coming! Whether you work out indoors at a gym or pool, go skiing and snowboarding or sign up for a yoga or dance class, remember that moving you body increases endorphins and eases anxiety and depression.

“If you are sensitive to winter and find that these tips aren’t lifting your mood, it may be time to seek medical treatment,” Sheikh adds. “For example, antidepressants or other forms of psychotherapy can be used proactively in the fall before symptoms begin. You don’t have to suffer alone this winter.”

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