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Explains seasonal affective disorder, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
Living with SAD can be difficult, but there are lots of things you can do to help yourself cope. This page has some suggestions for you to consider.
Some people find these ideas useful, but 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.
If SAD affects you during winter, there are particular things you could try that might help. You could:
"I try to get some natural light during the day just by being outside, maybe tidying up the garden or taking my dog for a walk. Exercise in natural light is really helpful but is not always possible."
If SAD affects you during hot weather, there are particular things you could try that might help. You could:
"I feel calmer and more relaxed when I have had a bath or a shower – no matter how quickly I am in there for. The same can be said for doing the washing up – it is a massive chore but I feel good when I can see the end result and also I find it takes my mind off the negative."
It can be hard to reach out when you're not feeling well, but 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:
"SAD is like a cold blanket that keeps depression and anxiety wrapped close to me. When I feel I can, I go outside and face the sun, close my eyes and focus on the light and warmth."
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.
"I keep a daily diary and it’s helpful to look back over the years and see how each year I’ve felt the downward spiral starting."
If you've noticed your symptoms follow a pattern, you may be able to work out when they're most likely to start in the future. This may help you put things in place for those times.
For example you could:
Some people find it helpful to fill a box with things that comfort them or help them to relax. You could try including your favourite book or film, a notebook and pen to write down your thoughts or notes of encouragement to yourself. This can be a useful tool as it can be very difficult to come up with ideas to help you when you're feeling low.
"December is dark but the festive lights and cheerfulness are an antidote and I now put up my Christmas decorations really early (1st Dec) as a way of coping with my SAD symptoms and stretching out the 'fairy-light antidote' for a whole month. However, when all the festive cheer has gone, I find January and February really tough."
Peer support brings together people who have had similar experiences. Some people find this very helpful.
To find peer support, you could:
"I have a dawn simulator alarm clock which lights up gradually to fill my space in the bedroom with a glow."
"I get up early, wrap up warm, put on my pedometer and walk in the dark and enjoy the solitude ... By the time people are up and about, I’m back home having walked a good few miles and feel so much better for it."
Looking after your physical health can make a difference to how you feel emotionally. For example, it can help to:
"My eyes, skin, throat and muscles ache. I find it difficult to concentrate. I can’t take in information or think things through to organise properly and my short-term memory is unreliable at that time of year. Evenings come as a relief. I feel my muscles relaxing as the sun goes down."
This information was published in February 2019. We will revise it in 2022.
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