Who doesn’t love Fall? As soon as we feel the chill in the air and smell the unmistakable scent of burning leaves, we know that pumpkin carving, football games, and holidays are right around the corner.

Still, in the middle of all of the fun times with family and friends, fall does have its down side for some of us. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D., begins its onset around this time of year for millions of Americans. Rianna Wilson, who schedules counseling appointments for clients in Charlottesville, VA says that many clients come in for depression at this time of the year. She adds, "Many clients get hit hard as the days get shorter."

Do any of these statements describe you? If they do, you may be suffering from S.A.D.

o “I have no energy.”
o “All I want to do is sleep.”
o “I feel so sad and I don’t know why.”
o “I am so frustrated all the time!”
o “I want comfort food, and lots of it.”
o “I don’t really feel like seeing my family and friends. I’d rather just stay home alone.”
o “I have all these new aches and pains, and I don’t know why.”

There’s bad news and good news about S.A.D. The bad news is that it’s a cyclical condition – it comes back each year around the same time. The good news is that, since we know when S.A.D. may grace us with its presence, we can take steps to prevent its onset or at least make it more tolerable. Here are a few quick tips.

1. Go to the gym – in your backyard. Instead of gazing out of the windows as you burn those calories, head outside for your workout. Not only is exercise itself a wonderful way to fend off depression, but the vitamin D in sunlight is a natural combatant to the end-of-summer blues (Lam & Westrin 2007). Save the gym for rainy or cold weather and spend time outside getting a natural boost.

2. Break up with carbs (or at least agree to date around). When the colder, darker weather hits, we crave comfort foods like breads, heavy stews, and pastas. If you suffer from S.A.D., though, indulging in these carbtastic foods isn’t the way to go – you’ll feel even more tired and sluggish than you already do. Fish, fruits, and nuts all have tons of vitamins, and many vegetarian meals have plenty of nutrients but are still filling enough to be satisfying. If you and your carbs can’t bear to part ways, try to only see each other occasionally, and save the bulk of your appetite for foods that will give you energy.

3. Get on good terms with Vitamin D. When the days get shorter, many of us are down in the dumps because we aren’t getting enough Vitamin D from the sun. One way to get a natural boost is to find a way to get more Vitamin D. You can absorb Vitamin D just from being outside and enjoying the weather, or you can eat it. If you enjoy milk with Vitamin D, or if you like egg yolks, liver, or certain kinds of fish, chow down and get your fix. If you can’t have dairy or if you’re more calorie conscious, you can take a pill supplement. However you get your vitamin D, get as much as you can as often as you can to help fend off S.A.D.

4. Don’t ever be afraid to reach out. It’s very tempting to isolate yourself if S.A.D. hits you hard. If the sadness and frustration have become too much, reach out to a counselor or other mental health professional who can treat you. The symptoms that come with S.A.D. can also indicate other conditions, and only a professional can diagnose you properly (Mikulski 2004).

Fall and winter are seasons that can bring with them so much joy. Take a few positive steps to keep the blues away, and don’t let S.A.D. steal one more minute of the most wonderful time of the year for you.


Lam, Raymond. W.; Westrin, Asa. “Long-Term Preventative Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder.” CNS Drugs, 21.11 (2007), 901-909.

Milkulski, Jessica. “Coping with Winter Depression: Tips for Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder.” American
Psychiatric Association. November 2004. 2 pages.

Author's Bio: 

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