Seasonal Depression – More than the Winter Blues

Seasonal Depression – More than the Winter Blues

Seasonal Depression – More than the Winter Blues 612 408 Dr. Menon

Helping Someone with Seasonal Depression (or Depression with a seasonal pattern)? What is Seasonal Depression anyway? Do you know someone who just wants to curl up inside and hide away during the coldest months of the year? Who looks like they’re a completely different person from who they are in the summer?

When temperatures start to drop and the days get shorter, it doesn’t just mean a change in the weather. The winter months can actually affect one’s mood, sleep, appetite, and energy levels. While it’s normal to feel a little down during colder months, a recurring and persistent depression that has a real impact on the quality of life may be a sign of Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern, commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

This type of depression is commonly associated with the fall and winter months. Researchers believe that the reduced sunlight, warmth, and color of winter contribute to it. These factors increase one’s melatonin level. While excess melatonin does not cause seasonal affective disorder, it can cause atypical depressive symptoms, such as increased tiredness or sleepiness, especially during the winter. When the nights are longer and there’s more time to sleep, there’s more time for your body to produce melatonin. In turn, increased melatonin can look like this:

  • Disruption of sleep
  • Changes in appetite and weight loss
  • Feelings of hopelessness and guilt
  • Disinterest in social activities
  • Low energy or extreme fatigue
  • Feeling irritated or restless
  • Problems getting along with others
  • Episodes of violent behavior

It can be hard for a friend or family member to deal with something more than just the ‘winter blues’ so it’s best if you keep an eye out for these symptoms to distinguish a regular bad day from something more serious. After all, no one should fight depression alone.

Here are tips that you can try in helping someone with Seasonal Depression (SAD): 

Be a good listener and validate their experience.

Let your friend or family member know that they should not hesitate to express themselves and that you understand what they are dealing with. Recognize that what they are experiencing is something serious albeit temporary. If they refuse to open up, be patient and don’t force them to tell you about their problem.

Avoid judgmental and insensitive statements,

like, “Everyone’s dealing with their own problems. Why can’t you?” or “ Why don’t you choose to simply be happy?” Not everyone deals with depression the same way so be mindful of your comments and avoid making assumptions about the person based on your personal experience.

Help arrange their home to create a warm and cozy space.

Offer to help rearrange furniture to maximize sunlight coming in or paint their walls to a lighter, brighter color. You can also gift them a specially designed lamp that mimics the sunlight and helps alleviate SAD symptoms.

Exercise together.

Physical exercise releases endorphins that relieve stress, boost one’s mood and liven up energy. Aside from exercise routines that you can do indoors, you can also invite your friend or loved one to go for a walk during the day to get some fresh air and sunlight exposure. 

Cook a favorite food.

While it is important for someone dealing with SAD to be mindful of their eating habits, it is difficult to do so if they are not feeling 100% of themselves. Lend a helping hand by making them something they can enjoy while incorporating proteins and vegetables (or Omega-3 and vitamin D-rich foods) into their meal or a dessert with dark chocolate and antioxidant rich berries. Nutrition is one form of medicine for your body.

Do something relaxing.

When helping someone with Seasonal Depression, it’s also helpful to know that they may experience extreme sluggishness and fatigue so you may also suggest activities that don’t require a lot from them. Watch a movie, sip a cup of hot drink, or simply enjoy the comfort and warmth of each other’s company.

Go on a vacation, if possible.

Plan a weekend getaway to somewhere a little warmer and sunnier. It would be nice for a person with SAD to have a change in routine, scenery, and weather and enjoy these with a friend or loved one. 

Encourage them to connect with others.

Social interactions can alleviate the symptoms of SAD so encourage your friend or loved one to spend time talking or meeting with other people. People with SAD will likely withdraw and choose to just stay inside so be patient and continue inviting them out (but don’t push too hard!) until they are ready.

Help them find support.

If the symptoms become too much for a person with SAD to manage on their own, you may consider getting the help of a mental health professional. This way, your friend or loved one may know what treatment works best for them and what kind of support or help they may need from you. 


Being depressed can be a lonely experience. Your friend or loved one may even isolate themselves and refuse to accept your help. The most important thing you can do is to continue to check in with them and let them know that they can rely on you. You can be there for them, but it’s equally important for you to look out for your own well-being. So, don’t feel bad to take a break, have fun, and do things that keep you well. Remember, you’ll be in a better position to support the people around you if you take care of your needs.

Reach out to us if you’re thinking about getting support for yourself or if you need specialist advice on how to help someone with SAD.

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