OWW Blog

From licensed healthcare providers who are experts in their field

SAD: A Primer on Seasonal Affective Disorder

Oct 18, 2023

Many of us outdoor enthusiasts welcome the fall and the beginning of a season full of ideal weather conditions for our most beloved sports. But as the days get progressively shorter, darker, and colder, another seasonal phenomenon tends to creep in. Enter: Seasonal Affective Disorder, or “SAD.” for short. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression, and sometimes anxiety, that is related to changes in the seasons. It's a real thing! For most people, SAD shows up in the fall and winter, but it can actually occur during any season. Common symptoms of SAD include an increase in feeling sad or “down”, decreased motivation, fatigue, appetite or weight changes, anxiety, sleep disturbance, decreased interest in activities you used to enjoy, and feelings of hopelessness.

So what causes SAD? It is generally believed to be caused by the decrease in light exposure, movement, vitamin D production that tends to occur for most of us in the fall and winter. Additionally, many people experience an increase in potential stressors related to the holidays, such as financial strain, navigating dysfunctional family dynamics, and overall busyness.

While SAD is typically temporary, it is not exactly pleasant to deal with. Luckily, there is a lot that you can do to manage SAD, or avoid SAD altogether. If you’re finding yourself experiencing SAD, try some of the following:

  1. Get outside as often as possible. Time spent outdoors decreases stress, increases UV light exposure, and often involves increased physical activity; all of which can combat SAD.
  2. If you can’t get outdoors, try using a phototherapy light for increased UV light exposure.
  3. Exercise regularly. Exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve mood, and stave off depression and anxiety.
  4. Maintain a consistent sleep routine. Be sure to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night, and do your best to avoid napping or oversleeping.
  5. Therapy. Psychotherapy with a licensed mental health care provider can help you learn new coping strategies for managing stressors and improving your mood.
  6. Medication. Some people benefit from taking antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication during the fall and winter.
  7. Increase vitamin D consumption. Studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation during the winter can reduce SAD symptoms significantly.
  8. Peer support. Talk to your support network! Staying connected to your community is an important part of avoiding the isolation that often leads to or results from SAD.

Getting hit with SAD is a real bummer, but it doesn’t have to be inevitable or severe. Establishing a routine of evidence-informed self care, and involving professional support when you need to can drastically reduce or resolve SAD Symptoms. If you decide that you’d like to add a professional to your SAD support network, take a look at OWW’s offerings. We’ve got licensed, professional health care providers on staff who understand the unique experiences of outdoor athletes and enthusiasts, and are ready to support you in your wellness journey.


Outdoor Women's Wellness 

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