It’s that time of year when the daylight dwindles earlier, the trees are changing, and many of us have started bundling up for cooler temperatures. For some, this season is exciting, filled with the holiday hustle and social gatherings; but others face a more complex emotional landscape during the winter months. As behavioral health professionals, we may experience this slump ourselves, or we may have clients who have extra difficulties during this season.

Seasonal depression affects many, and can be a problem for months at a time. The constant feelings of sadness through the winter could signal you’re experiencing seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. It’s widely believed that the lack of natural vitamin D during the cold winter months is the main culprit for seasonal depression.

So how can we, as behavioral health professionals, help our clients combat this season-long mood slump?

  1. Seek and Accept Help
    Encourage clients to acknowledge the fact that they’re having a tough time. Occasional sadness during long, gray days is one thing; but an entire season of winter blues may require extra help from a professional. Therapists can help with the mood shifts and recommend ways to maintain a healthy sleep schedule that will stimulate more mood balance.
  2. Try Light Therapy
    Light therapy machines are a great option for helping reduce depressive symptoms by eliciting chemical changes in the brain that will shift your mood. Simulating the light you would get from the sun outdoors, light therapy can reduce fatigue, sadness and other symptoms.
  3. Bump Up Your Vitamin D
    Since we recognize that seasonal affective disorder is caused, at least in part, by lack of vitamin D, a great way to counteract that is to boost your mood via nutrients in foods like mushrooms, egg yolks and fortified foods. Foods such as wild salmon, pasture-raised eggs and walnuts are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which can support mood. It also wouldn’t hurt to include good fats like avocados, nuts and olive oil and high fiber foods like root vegetables. You can also consider including a vitamin D supplement during the winter months.
  4. Carve Out Time to Decompress
    Amidst the holiday rush with its back-to-back events and mounting responsibilities, self-care is paramount. Integrate exercise, maintain a balanced diet, ensure adequate sleep, and adhere to familiar routines. Identify practices that ground you, contributing to overall well-being.

Tips to manage seasonal depression