Actionable tips to cope with SAD

Those suffering from SAD find that they can’t handle stressful situations as successfully as before.

What are your thoughts on fall? Are you wishing you were still at the beach, or are you looking forward to colorful trees and cozy knitwear? For many people it can be a challenging time as it can mark the onset of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). The shorter days and long, long nights mean our bodies sometimes struggle to adjust to receiving less light.

SAD was first mentioned in a paper by psychiatrist Norman Rosenthal in 1984. He used it in relation to a group of people he was studying in Maryland. Since then, it’s been noted around the world in both northern and southern hemispheres- especially in countries and regions furthest away from the Equator.


Although no one is clear on the exact trigger -sometimes it can be genetic, for example- the most obvious cause is a lack of sunlight. It also seems to be about four times more common in women than in men. Those suffering from it find that they can’t handle stressful situations as successfully as before.

Symptoms of SAD can include:

  • a persistently low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • lacking in energy and feeling sleepy during the day
  • sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • craving carbohydrates and sugary snacks
  • difficulty concentrating
  • decreased sex drive

If you believe you may be suffering from SAD, then your first port of call has to be your doctor. They will be able to advise you on the best course of treatment adapted to your individual requirements.

Trying to get outside every morning for a walk has been show to help alleviate SAD symptoms. 

Common treatments include the use of light boxes, exercise, and vitamin D supplementation. A way to kill three birds with one stone is to get yourself outside for a walk as the sun comes up. Even if it’s a gray day, you’ll still get some valuable rays on your skin to help with vitamin D absorption, while moving your body will release those coveted endorphins to help shift the winter blues. 

“Anything that gets you out, that gets you physically active, is going to be good psychotherapy and stave off winter problems.”
― Jon Krakauer, Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains

I can’t help thinking about how ikigai could also help those with SAD. By connecting your sense of purpose and what makes life worth living for you, there’s a stronger chance of feeling a greater connection to yourself. Take a moment to enjoy your tea or coffee in the morning, for example. Or take a small step towards a life’s goal (writing that novel, planning that journey, or training for that marathon.) Any of these actions can go a long way during those moments of darkness.  Similarly, I think that ibasho can also help with SAD. It’s another Japanese concept which aspires to strengthen one’s sense of belonging and community. Focused around taking advantage of Elders’ knowledge and wisdom, it aims to help the community at large. By connecting with where and with whom you feel you can truly be yourself, you have more probability of grounding yourself. Which is a wonderful compliment to whatever your doctor might suggest. 

Additionally, a great way to keep a record of how you’re feeling and tap into a supportive, online community is through the 29k app. Developed by psychologists, it’s a free tool that can be used to track how you’re feeling, work on meditation techniques and help manage stress. 

The app is also useful for neurodivergent people and, of course, feel free to reach out to me for help on any of the issues raised in this post. 

Prioritizing rest: Why vacation and downtime are crucial for your wellbeing and productivity
‘Rest isn’t just sleeping one night’ – Jeff Cooper, ADD/ADHD & Attention Coach