Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder: 5 Easy Steps You Can Take Today

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Lauren Hays

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, PMHNP

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The Cold Weather and Stresses of the Holiday Season Can Take a Toll on Your Mental Health. but you don’t have to suffer all winter long!

For many people, the winter months can be a tough time. The shorter days and longer nights can lead to feelings of sadness, fatigue, and loneliness. If you’re someone who often feels down when there is less sunshine and cooler temperatures, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In this blog post, we’ll discuss what SAD is, how you can remedy it, and some tips for sustaining your mental health during the winter months.


Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs at the same time each year—usually in the fall or winter and in those of us living further from the equator. SAD is thought to be caused by a change in the amount of daylight exposure during these months.  It is 4x more likely to occur in women than men. 

As the days get shorter your circadian rhythm is likely to be disrupted, your Vitamin D (sunshine vitamin) levels are decreasing, and your melatonin levels could increase.  This flux in hormones can cause symptoms such as fatigue, low energy, cravings for carbohydrates, social withdrawal, and difficulty concentrating. Sound familiar?  Not to fret, there are natural ways to help alleviate these symptoms.


While many nonpharmacological treatments have proven effective, severe depression and anxiety should still be treated with psychotherapy and medication, if warranted.

It is recommended to start nonpharmacological treatments in late fall to avoid an exacerbation of symptoms at the onset of winter. 

There are a number of functional and holistic ways you can treat SAD, or the “winter blues”.


One of the most effective treatments is light therapy, which involves sitting in front of a special light box for 30 minutes to an hour at least three times a week and is most effective when done in the morning. Light therapy mimic’s sunlight exposure and can help to improve your mood and energy levels by allowing your internal clock to be better regulated after it was thrown off from the change of daylight hours and sunshine.  

There are many products on the market, however, it’s essential to look for lights that produce around 10,000 LUX and should be manufactured to filter out the UV rays. Talk with your primary care provider before implementing to discuss any preexisting conditions or risks. 


Make sure to eat healthy foods and stay hydrated. A nutritious diet will give you the energy you need to power through your day. Prioritize omega-3 fatty acids to help stabilize your mood.  Salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, and flax are all high in omega-3s. 

Foods rich in l-lysine are believed* to reduce symptoms of anxiety by reducing cortisol levels. Red meat, fish, and cheese contain l-lysine.

Research shows magnesium is critical to our hormone balance and stress response.  Magnesium can be found in spinach, dark leafy greens, and whole grains.  Here are some of our favorite recipes to support your mood.  

Reducing alcohol, caffeine, and sugar can help improve your sleep quality! When used in excess, the caffeine found in coffee, tea, and energy drinks can affect your mood, appetite, sleep and memory by lowering serotonin levels in the brain.


It’s important to get outside every day, even if it’s just for a short walk around the block. Exposure to natural light can help improve your mood and energy levels and balance your circadian rhythm!

Exercise regularly. Exercise releases endorphins—which have mood-boosting effects—and can help to improve your sleep quality.  Take your sleep to the next level by practicing good sleep hygiene

Spend time with friends and loved ones. Social interaction can help ward off feelings of loneliness and isolation.  When getting together with friends and family is not possible, consider a digital community like ours! A cozy + casual community call might be just what the doctor ordered! 

Practice stress-relieving activities such as yoga or meditation. Taking some time each day to focus on your breath can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.  Meditation and mindfulness have many benefits:

  • It can help you return to baseline and decrease cortisol levels quicker after stressful events. (Mom rage, anyone?)
  • It can decrease your negativity bias. (it’s not all bad, mama)
  • It is linked with better relationships and more positive behavior when it comes to your kids.  A happy, patient mama equals happier, stronger kids.


The winter months can be tough for many people—but there are things that you can do to sustain your mental health during this time of year. If you’re struggling with seasonal affective disorder, speaking with a mental health professional can be really beneficial. 

BetterHelp makes it easy to connect with a professional you can trust.  Tap into the world’s largest network of licensed, accredited, and experienced therapists who can help you with a range of issues including depression, anxiety, relationships, trauma, grief, and more. You get the same professionalism and quality you would expect from an in-office therapist, but with the ability to communicate when and how you want. BetterHelp Therapists are there when you need them no matter your preference of communication message, chat, phone, or video. Use code: thematrescence for 15% off your first month! As a BetterHelp affiliate, we may receive compensation from BetterHelp if you purchase products or services through the links provided.

By taking care of yourself both physically and mentally, you can get through the winter months feeling happy and healthy!


Download our free daily checklist to help motivate you to stay healthy and happy all winter long! This download includes links to all of our favorite natural products to help beat those winter blues.

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Picture of Lauren Hays, PMHNP

Lauren Hays, PMHNP

Lauren was a licensed and trained registered nurse in the NICU and has since made a career shift to focus on mental health. Lauren is now a board certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, focusing on women’s health and wellness. She is a mom of three precious little men who has turned her pain into passion.

mother with eyes closed pressing her face up against her infant to calm her anxious feelings

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