Overcoming Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) & Its Effects

November 30, 2022

The changing of the seasons has many effects on one’s daily life. From changing one’s available hobbies or activities to the amount of daylight one has, the seasons can dictate much of one’s daily routine. However, there are some who may feel the effects of the changing seasons more than others, manifesting as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD can be a challenging time, with it having intense effects on one’s mood, mental health, and sobriety. Learning to identify SAD is crucial in creating a plan to address and overcome its effects. 

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is a common disorder that is tied to the changing of seasons, typically during the onset of winter. SAD is a type of depression and comes with prolonged periods of:

  • Low mood
  • Feelings of helplessness or pointlessness
  • Fatigue or lethargy

SAD can even inform one’s use of drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.

The changing seasons bring lower amounts of daylight, with an individual waking up for school or work while still being dark out. Along with the earlier sunset, it can feel difficult to enjoy the daylight that is present. Colder weather can cause an individual to stay indoors, causing feelings of entrapment that can feel just as mentally and emotionally contained as they are physically surrounded by indoor walls. 

While SAD is commonly tied to the winter months — when going outside is less feasible and outdoor opportunities, coping mechanisms, or self-care outlets may be compromised — it is possible to experience SAD during any season. Some individuals may struggle throughout the summer months due to their own personal experiences, and while SAD is commonly tied to winter, this is not always the case. 

Those navigating their addiction recovery journey can be especially vulnerable to SAD, with the changing seasons and available therapeutic outlets forcing one to adjust their practiced coping strategies. Urges and cravings can be common throughout this time, and working with trained professionals to identify stresses and develop personalized grounding strategies is essential for continuing to prioritize one’s recovery and sobriety year-round, from detox to intensive outpatient care. 

Overcoming SAD

SAD affects an individual in many ways, from feelings of depression to eschewing responsibilities, compromising relationships, and affecting one’s mental health. However, no two journeys in overcoming SAD will be the same, and using a variety of personalized strategies is crucial to combat its effects. While some may benefit from adopting new hobbies for the changing season, others may benefit from the help of trained professionals to address the effects of depression or the use of addictive substances to effectively navigate SAD. 

Create Your Own Light

The lack of natural daylight is a major source of SAD, and ensuring that one’s living space or areas one frequents are well-lit is paramount. Having lights on a timer to illuminate the home in the morning or using lightboxes around the house can all provide a degree of soft light that can make a big difference in one’s mental health. Keeping routines as consistent as possible despite the changing daylight is also crucial, as it can add a degree of normalcy to one’s day.

Get Moving

SAD greatly impacts one’s motivation, and getting the body moving is important for maintaining a healthy emotional state. Engaging in physical activities in one’s home year-round, such as yoga or having a home workout station, can help an individual practice indoor-focused physical activity for when winter does arrive. Likewise, forcing oneself to take a walk whenever the sun is shining, even if one has to don a coat and heavy socks, can all be crucial for keeping the body moving and overcoming any feelings of stagnation. 

Connect With Loved Ones

SAD can bring feelings of isolation and loneliness. Making an effort to connect with loved ones throughout the changing seasons can instill a sense of community and support to address the effects of SAD. Daily emails, text messages, phone calls, and more can all help an individual feel connected and supported by family members throughout all seasons. Making these practices habitual and routine can ensure that one never feels isolated in their battles against SAD. 

Have Indoor Hobbies

While getting outside is important, having indoor hobbies is also instrumental. Establishing indoor hobbies during more active months can enshrine these practices for when the seasons change. Creating an art studio, getting a movie collection together, starting a journal or crafting space, and much more can all be incredibly beneficial for addressing the effects of SAD while prioritizing one’s mental health. 

Keeping one’s hobbies varied throughout all seasons is important to ensure that one has a variety of interests and outlets, helping each individual further their personal identity while overcoming the effects of SAD and managing stress. Those navigating their recovery and sobriety can further benefit from these interests, providing an outlet to process urges and cravings that may be more prevalent as a result of SAD. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect one’s daily life in many ways and can even impact one’s use of drugs or alcohol. At Buena Vista Recovery, we understand the challenges that come with the changing seasons, and we are prepared to help you understand and overcome the effects of SAD while keeping your sobriety in focus. From detox to residential and outpatient programs, we are prepared to customize your time with us to address your unique needs and goals throughout each stage of recovery.

For more information on how we can help you, or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your unique needs and goals in recovery, call us today at (480) 741-9414.