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Beating the Winter Blues

Updated: Jan 30, 2022

Are you feeling BLAH? No energy? Sleeping more? Craving more carbohydrates or comfort foods?

January and February can feel like the longest months of the year. This is the time of the year many people experience the winter blues or what is known in the medical world as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The gray overcast days, cold temperatures, short days and long nights can take a toll on our energy and our mood. It’s helpful to identify the signs of SAD and know what you can do to navigate the winter months until spring arrives.

Experiencing the winter blues is a common occurrence following the holiday season. We are now past the shortest day of the year (December 21st), and we are moving towards increased daylight. However, the post-holiday letdown and the feeling of being “cooped up” in our homes can leave us feeling sad, isolated, and empty.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can occur at any age and typically impacts most people in the fall and winter months. It is estimated that a half million people in the US experience SAD especially between the months of September and April.

Common signs and symptoms of SAD are:

  • Lack of energy

  • Increased sleeping

  • Isolation and feeling like you do not want to be around others

  • Fatigue and exhaustion

  • Craving comfort foods/carbohydrates

  • Weight gain

  • Difficulty concentrating

What should you do if you think you are suffering from SAD? Below are some helpful steps that you can take to start on your journey to feeling better. However, it is important to talk with your Physician and or schedule an appointment with a professional counselor/therapist in order to have a proper diagnosis for what is happening. This will ensure that the best treatment options are determined while ruling out any other medical explanation for the symptoms you are experiencing.

There are several treatment options that may be appropriate and facilitated through your Physician and/or counselor/therapist. These include:

  • Light therapy

  • Talking therapy

  • Medication therapy

  • Life-style adjustments (i.e. prioritize sleep, stay active, focus on good nutrition, limit or avoid alcohol, practice meditation)

Additional tips to consider for coping with the winter blues:

  • Schedule time with friends

  • Consider picking up a winter sport (i.e. ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, etc.)

  • Attend a class (i.e. cooking, yoga, art, etc.) virtual or in person.

  • Identify or engage in a hobby

  • Write in a journal

  • Plan, schedule, or take a vacation to a sunny destination

  • Volunteer

  • Use scents (i.e. candles, lotion, essential oils) that boost your mood (i.e. citrus, lavender, jasmine, rosemary, cinnamon, peppermint)

If you are struggling with winter blues or what you believe to be Seasonal Affective Disorder, our therapists at Westmoreland Psychotherapy Associates can meet with you to discuss your symptoms and to provide direction in what will best meet your needs and ultimately help you to feel better.


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