How I “Accidentally” Overcame Seasonal Affective Disorder

January 12, 2019

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

To put it scientifically, SAD is: “a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer” (National Institute of Mental Health).

Basically, it is decently self-explanatory, people who suffer from SAD will experience depressive feelings only during the fall and winter months, and their symptoms will “magically” disappear as soon as it warms up.

The important part of SAD is that you have to experience these symptoms for at least two years, and their symptoms have to be limited to the fall and winter months. Otherwise, a more accurate diagnosis of normal depression will be in order.

Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Frequently feeling depressed for the majority of the day.
  • Having feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Agitation
  • Sluggishness
  • Having low energy
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Sleep problems
  • Thoughts of suicide

My Experience With SAD

When I was young, I loved winter. Playing in the snow, lighting the fireplace, hot chocolate, all the holidays, winter was the best. I never really had a favorite season. About the time I started to drive, so four to five years ago, I began to hate winter. I realized how annoying driving in the snow was, and playing out in the snow was just not as fun. Summer became my favorite season, and I dreaded winter more and more.

Winter 2015-2016 was the first winter I struggled, for one reason: I was no longer home schooled. All growing up, the short days of winter did not bother me. If I did not have a lot of homework, school would be done by lunch, and the entire afternoon could be dedicated to playing outside and soaking up the winter sun. 2015 I started college. That winter I had an afternoon class from 3:40-5:20. I had two classes in the day time before that, as well as chapel (I go to Bible college). Therefore, my only opportunities for being outside when it was daylight for longer than five minutes were on the weekend. However, I worked. So, my only chance to be outside was never. By the end of that winter, I was definitely struggling mentally. Yet, when winter ended, I was back to normal and did not think it was a problem.

If you have read my post about my emetophobia, then you would know that it started for real when my family got a stomach bug in January 2016. Also, during that experience we were snowed in. Under like 36 inches of snow. And it was extremely traumatizing.

So the winter of 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 were absolutely terrible. My emetophobia made me constantly anxious about the stomach bugs that go around in the winter. Not being able to get fresh air and feeling trapped by snow and cold weather took its toll. I have been experiencing most of the above symptoms from October-April for the past two years. But this year, I accidentally made a change.

What I Changed:

I realized on the 8th that it was in fact the 8th of January, and the thought hit me like a brick. I am no different in anxiety level or depression than I was in the middle of the summer. I am literally thriving. So, on the 10th when I had my counseling appointment, we talked about what I have been doing. Here are the accidental changes I have made that have improved my SAD.

  • Thinking positively- this may sound obvious, but honestly it was new for me. It was not even a conscious choice, I have just really thrown myself into being happy with each day. Taking joy in the little things, not tearing myself down when I have a bad day. Before, a bad day would turn into three or four bad days because I would dig myself into a hole and beat myself up over the fact that I was struggling. Therefore, accepting my weak days and celebrating my strong days has been really helpful in my quest to be positive.
  • Not living in fear- this winter I have decided to work on being afraid of getting sick. There are 211 days between the 1st of October and the 30th of April. That is most of my year. Even if I were to get sick in that time, it would be maybe 3 days of that. I realized how ridiculous it was that I was making myself miserable for 211 days of my year for a possible 3 days of misery.
  • Getting fresh air- getting outside is such a struggle in winter. It is cold, not very sunny, and kind of miserable. However, I have made a point to get at least 20 (preferably 45 to 60) minutes of time outside every day. I got a really awesome Eddie Bauer jacket for Christmas from my husband, which helps keep me warm, and I make sure to bundle up. I go for walks, kick around a soccer ball, and on the warmer days I even sit on our porch and read. I truly believe this has made all the difference. Having the opportunity to get fresh air and be active even when it is cold and the days are shorter is such a mood-booster.

I really wanted to share this as both an encouragement and also just a status as to the progress that I am making. SAD is not something that people have to just live through. You can improve your symptoms by changing your schedule and your thought process. I never thought that I would say this, but maybe winter is not that bad after all.

40 Comments

  • Danielle Jones January 15, 2019 at 8:54 am

    Great list here. Important to make changes in order to get to the bottom of the situation

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 9:51 am

      Very true!

  • Supermompicks January 15, 2019 at 9:10 am

    I didn’t know this was a thing, although I certainly feel it in the winter months!

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 9:52 am

      I didn’t know it was a thing either until my therapist talked to me about it!

  • Neil Alvin Nicerio January 15, 2019 at 9:13 am

    I don’t know but I sometime experience those symptoms. Hehe. I hope I’m not SAD.

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 9:53 am

      I hope so as well!

  • Luna S January 15, 2019 at 10:22 am

    I deal with this during the winter sometimes, it is a bummer but I manage and I know others deal with it worse.

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 9:53 am

      It really is a bummer, and at times it still gets to me, but it really is important to stay positive!

  • Shnooks January 15, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    I wasn’t aware of this kind of disorder but I pretty much experience this phase in winter almost every year . Thank you so much for sharing this informative article 💗

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 9:55 am

      I am so sorry! You are very welcome!

  • Keshia Richmond January 15, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    Glad you’ve made some amazing strides in your recovery.

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 9:55 am

      Thank you!

  • Renee Theresa January 15, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    I get SAD every year. I love this post. Thanks!

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 9:55 am

      That is very unfortunate! You are very welcome!

  • Brandy January 15, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    This is a feeling many go through in the winter months. Our mind set going into anything can change so much with our perspective and feelings. Thank you for the great tips.

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 10:00 am

      That is extremely true! We can change so much when we change our perspective.

  • Kate @Kate These Days January 15, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I sometimes struggle with feeling fatigued and sluggish in the winter months. Having less hours of daylight on top of the extreme cold can really take its toll. Fortunately where I live we have had a very mild winter so far. I’m sure the cold and snow will come at some point though! So hopefully I can implement some of these changes you’ve made.

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 10:01 am

      We have had a rather mild winter here too! It has been such a blessing. I hope you can as well!

  • Adharsh G Raju January 15, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    Thank you for the tips…. There are people ou there who are suffering… It would be a great help .. keep going.

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 10:02 am

      That is truly my goal!

  • Viki de Lieme January 16, 2019 at 3:21 am

    Wow I’ve had this SAD for years and Ii didn’t even know there was an actual name to this disorder… Indeed the three ways you’ve accidentally found to manage these feelings are the top three ways any professional would have recommended. Good job 🙂

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 10:03 am

      I was not aware that it had a name either until my therapist mentioned it to me! Thank you so much.

  • Cassie January 16, 2019 at 6:38 am

    I hope your story reaches someone who is affected by these and uses your tips to help

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 10:04 am

      I surely hope so!

  • franklyfrankiee January 16, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Never experience this until I moved to the United States. I used to live on an island it was sunshine 365 days a year. My life was so much better there. Can’t wait to move back.

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 10:05 am

      Oh that sounds absolutely lovely! I dream of moving away from the States where there is beautiful weather all year round.

  • chaddden2001 January 16, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    These tips are really helpful, I’m going to talk to my mum and see if they can help her. Thanks!

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 10:05 am

      Oh I hope that they can! Send her my best.

  • ZyraKuma January 17, 2019 at 7:54 am

    I can really relate to you! I feel like I have SAD too cuz I’m always depressed when its gloomy or cold and happier when its sunny. When I was young, I use to love Winter because it was my birthday season and now I absolutely hate it! Summer and Spring is my current favourite seasons. And I also have Emetophobia too which is surprising to hear you have it too.

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 10:06 am

      Yes! I used to love winter so much. Honestly my emetophobia is one of the causes of my SAD because the stomach bug is everywhere and it makes me so anxious and gloomy!

  • Jomar Allen Enecio January 17, 2019 at 9:07 am

    great article. I’d definitely bookmark this one. Hope to find more like this.

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 10:07 am

      Thank you!

  • Style High Guy January 17, 2019 at 10:54 am

    SAD seems like such an untalked about thing. As someone who has struggled with mental health this topic absolutely fascinates me. Such an open post, thanks for sharing 🙂

  • amayszingblogs January 17, 2019 at 9:47 pm

    I totally relate with you I have some symptoms for this Seasonal Affective Disorder. great to know about these tips wonderful post

  • Blair villanueva January 18, 2019 at 4:20 am

    I wasn’t aware of this situation however, glad that you found ways to remedy it. I learned a lot today reading your story.

  • Puja January 18, 2019 at 6:03 am

    Thanks for sharing about SAD. I am sure your story will help many.

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 10:07 am

      I truly hope so!

  • Elizabeth O January 18, 2019 at 8:24 am

    Good for you for trying a number of things to do that helped your condition. Positive thinking goes a long way.

    • thehonestreader January 22, 2019 at 10:08 am

      I am all about trying all different ways to improve myself!

  • Jolie Starrett January 29, 2019 at 8:42 am

    I totally believe in SAD. I lived in Central California on the coast for a while and when it was foggy and gloomy I could tell I was in a different mood.

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