top of page

Seasonal Affective Disorder - What Is It? How Can I Cope With It?

According to the Canadian Psychological Association, Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) occurs in 15% of Canadians and 2-3% will report serious cases. SAD is usually set off by the changes of sunlight exposure because of the changing of seasons. We will discuss the signs and symptoms of SAD as well as the ways in which you can navigate SAD to reduce symptoms. It is important to recognize that SAD is quite common and for the most part it is temporary. Take the information that you feel applies to you!

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder and what does SAD look like?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), more commonly known as Seasonal Depression, is a type of depression that can be triggered by changes in daylight and weather.  It occurs primarily in colder seasons such as fall and winter, but it could also occur in the spring and summer. Though there is no cause of SAD, factors such as shortened hours of sun can contribute.

There are two types of SAD:

  1. Fall-onset SAD also called winter depression. Symptoms of SAD begin in the late fall to early winter months and ease during the summer months.

  2. Spring-onset also called summer depression. Symptoms of depression begin in late spring to early summer. This is less common.

Symptoms of SAD:

It may be challenging to recognize SAD because it affects everyone differently. Symptoms of SAD tend to come back and ease at around the same times each year.

Common symptoms of SAD include:

  • Increased hours of sleep and fatigue during the daytime.

  • A loss of interest and pleasure in activities that were previously enjoyed.

  • A tendency to withdraw from regular social groups and an increased sensitivity to rejection.

  • Increased irritability and anxiety.

  • Decreased ability to focus or remain concentrated.


It is important to recognize that sadness is regular human emotion and is nothing to be ashamed of. If you are experiencing any symptoms of SAD, make sure to prioritize your physical health and mental health.



How can you navigate Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Everyone’s experience with Seasonal Affective Disorder will be different, so coping methods can be different from person to person. The most important thing to remember is to put yourself first. Here are some other self-care tips to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • As warm and comfortable as staying indoors may be, consider spending some time outside. This can look like taking a walk around your neighborhood, soaking up some sun, sitting on a bench or trying out some fun winter activities, such as skating.

  • Consider exercising regularly. Exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous, adding movement to your day can have a positive effect.

  • Do things that make you feel better. Watch your favorite movie, listen to an upbeat playlist, bake some treats, or other activities that you enjoy. It is also important to surround yourself with people that make you feel good.

  • Form a healthy sleep schedule. With less sunlight, it is important to schedule reliable times to wake up and go to sleep.

  • Visit UM’s Student Wellness Centre and increase your exposure to light by using a SAD / happy lamp which can simulate sunlight.


Click here for more information from Mayo Clinic regarding treatments of SAD.

Click here to learn more about the symptoms of SAD.



About the Author

Halimat (She/Her)

Hi everyone! I am currently in second year in the Bachelor of Science, Biochemistry Honors Program. I am very grateful to be a part of Healthy U this year and I am excited to make a direct impact on campus. Sexual health, reproductive health, and mental health are health topics that I am passionate about. When I am unoccupied, I am most likely drawing, crocheting, running or watching a movie. 


bottom of page