Often physical and personal problems increase with age and may lead to depression.  HOWEVER, depression can often be caused by the change of seasons when shorter amounts of daylight hours can signal an increase in the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin.

If you find that some of these feelings tend to begin as the seasons change, you may be experiencing SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Possible symptoms may include:

  • Loss of interest in what is usually enjoyable – perhaps “dreading” the holidays that used to bring such excitement
  • Feelings of isolation or perhaps the desire to isolate
  • Irritability, anxiety, hopelessness
  • Fatigue, low energy and sleepiness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Increase in physical problems, or at least a greater fixation on these
  • Changes in appetite and sleep patterns

What can you do?

  • Realize that the symptoms should increase and subsequently decrease as days grow shorter and then longer over time.
  • Try to stay connected with those people and activities you care about. In person get togethers may need to be replaced with phone calls or zoom get togethers.
  • Replace warmer weather activities with new winter ones – perhaps get book recommendations; try new indoor crafts; prepare new dishes; bake for the holidays and perhaps share with others; perhaps write some of your lifetime memories to share with your family. Grandchildren often love to hear about how life was when you were younger.
  • Getting out in the sun for at least 15-30 minutes as often as possible.
  • Try to eat as healthy as possible and to get some exercise.
  • Discuss your symptoms with your family and/or your physician. Antidepressants and/or talk therapy may be needed.  Another option may be the use of a light box.  These can offer a therapeutic dose of bright light that can often treat the symptoms of SAD.
  • HOWEVER, if you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder you will need to discuss the use of a light box with your physician. Inappropriate use of the box could possibly produce manic symptoms.
  • LIKEWISE, if you have or had certain eye issues please first discuss the use of a light box with your eye specialist.
  • Knowing that SAD is likely to get better in a few months, make lists or plans of things you would like to do as spring arrives!

NIMH » Seasonal Affective Disorder (

​Feeling SAD? 3 Ways to Fight Seasonal Depression (

More ways to help fight SAD

Pam Stone , BSW, Certified Case Manager (CCM)
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