Support with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) | University of Oxford
Man in hat and hoody outside in dark light. Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
Man in hat and hoody outside in dark light. Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Support with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

As the days get shorter and the weather becomes colder and more difficult to manage, more and more people may begin to have negative changes in terms of their physical and mental health.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. SAD is sometimes known as "winter depression" because the symptoms are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter. 

Living with SAD can be difficult, there are lots of things you can do to help yourself cope. This page has some suggestions for you to consider.

What is SAD?

Symptoms of SAD can include:

  • a persistent low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • irritability
  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
  • sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

For some people, these symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities.

For a more detailed explanation on the symptoms of SAD, please go onto the NHS SAD website.

Winter SAD - practical day-to-day tips

If SAD affects you during winter, there are particular things you could try that might help. You could:

Make the most of natural light

It might help to spend time in natural light, for example going for walks, spending time in parks or gardens, or simply sitting near a window. This can be helpful if you experience SAD in winter. 

Plan ahead for winter

For example, try to make meals in advance and freeze them if you know you are likely to lack the energy to do this during the most difficult period.

Talk to someone 

It can be hard to reach out when you're not feeling well, it might help to share how you're feeling. If you don't feel you can talk to the people around you or you need additional support, you could contact a helpline such as the Samaritans, charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone. Other links for support can be found on Mind's SAD page.

Keep a diary

You might find it helps to keep a note of your symptoms, including when they start and if particular things seem to trigger them, including changes in the weather. This could help you notice any patterns.

You could also make a note of things that feel helpful for you or which seem to make things worse. This can be helpful because SAD affects you at some times and not others, so you might not easily remember these details.

Some people find these ideas useful, remember that different things work for different people at different times. Only try what you feel comfortable with, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself. If something isn't working for you (or doesn't feel possible just now), you can try something else, or come back to it another time.

Further support

This page was creating using resources from Mind, the mental health charity. There is more information on how to deal with SAD on Mind's dedicated page and the Mental Health pages of the Oxford student welfare and wellbeing site.  Please also visit the NHS website on SAD for more information.