Winter blues got you down—again?

Winter BluesIf you always experience depression that begins in fall and continues to spring, don’t brush it off as simply a case of the “winter blues.” You may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). You don’t need to tough it out on your own! We have supportive help and steps you can take to keep your mood and motivation steady all year long.

Depression and SAD

Depression is a common and treatable condition that can affect anyone. Like other types of depression, SAD is a condition of the brain that leaves a person feeling down. It can sap your energy, erase your motivation and make you moody.

Symptoms specific to wintertime SAD include oversleeping, craving foods high in carbohydrates, weight gain and low energy. Other general signs of depression can include:

  • No longer enjoying the things you usually like to do
  • Feeling sad, down, hopeless or cranky most of the day, almost every day
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite, weight and sleep patterns
  • Feeling tired or having no energy
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Feeling agitated
  • Thinking about death or suicide

Coping and treatments

Ongoing depression is never a normal part of life. We have safe and effective treatments to help you cope. These include seeing a psychotherapist, taking medications or a combination. With SAD, light therapy can also be a powerful treatment protocol. Read on for light therapy and other ideas you can discuss with your doctors.

Light therapy. With light therapy (also called phototherapy), you expose yourself to a special light box right after you wake up each day. Doing this appears to trigger a change in your brain chemistry and boost your mood. It’s a bit like getting some summer sunshine to start the day. Light therapy often offers relief from SAD in just a few days.

Vitamin D. Our bodies naturally synthesize vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. All you need for a week’s worth of this vitamin is 15 to 20 minutes in the sun—but that can be hard to come by during winter in the Northwest. Because vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, it supports healthy bones. But recent research has also shown it may help alleviate symptoms of SAD.

Exercise. Physical activity is helpful for all types of depression because it increases the production of endorphins in the body. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that make you feel good.

Sleep. Sleep is a very important way to lessen symptoms. Good sleep hygiene includes getting up at the same time every day, following a bedtime routine to program your body to sleep and keeping your room dark at night. Also avoid all screen use for at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

When to get help

It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if you notice some of the symptoms listed above, you turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation, or you feel hopeless or think about suicide.

With all types of depression, your primary care provider can help guide you to the support you need. Looking for a doctor? See our primary care team at one of our 9 PacMed clinics


If you are thinking about suicide or hurting yourself, help is available:

  • In an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest ER
  • Call a 24-hour crisis line:
    King: 1.866.427.4747
    Snohomish: 1.800.584.3578
    Pierce: 1.800.576.7764
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255