Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a kind of depression triggered by changes in the seasons. Symptoms of SAD often appear in the autumn or early cold winter months, while they reduce during the spring and sunnier summer months. Less often, people with SAD may have an opposite pattern and they experience symptoms in the early months of spring or summer. These may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.

Signs of SAD vary depending on the time the person starts experiencing them. Symptoms related to SAD that start in autumn/winter include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Increased appetite
  • Gaining weight
  • Low energy

Symptoms related to SAD that start in spring/summer include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor appetite
  • Losing weight 
  • Feeling agitated

Although the causes of SAD remain unknown, there are some factors like chemical imbalances in the brain, and the level of sunlight, which can cause SAD. 

So, how can one cope with the symptoms brought by SAD?

Treatment for SAD varies from the use of prescribed medication, psychotherapy, as well as daily routines and self-care skills one can develop. 


Some individuals with SAD may benefit from antidepressant treatment. Although it is normal to have some days when one feels down, if this occurs often and you are not motivated to do the things you usually enjoy, see your family doctor. 

The doctor may recommend antidepressants even before the symptoms start to emerge each year. Medications may be prescribed until your symptoms reduce or as a long-term treatment. Be aware that medication may take several weeks to start being effective, so always follow the recommendations of your doctor.


Psychotherapy, also known as talking therapy, is another option for SAD. For example, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can support you to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviours, which may be making you feel worse. 

Psychotherapy can help with exploring new healthy coping skills such as scheduling your favourite activities and practicing stress management skills.

Mind-body connection

Another way to cope with SAD is using mind-body techniques that allow a stronger connection between the two. These may include:

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Guided imagery
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Music and Art therapy
  • Aromatherapy

Lifestyle and home changes

Besides seeking professional help, treatment for SAD can involve making changes in your environment. These include:

  • Brightening up your surroundings with natural light – Open up windows, add skylights in your home, and sit closer to bright windows at the office
  • Be part of the great outdoors – Go outside often for a daily walk, have lunch in a garden, or find a bench to enjoy the sun. This applies even in cold or cloudy days
  • Get moving – Physical activity can help relieve stress and anxiety. Keeping fit does not only make you feel good about yourself but also uplifts your mood

Self-Supporting skills 

Developing self-supporting skills to manage SAD symptoms can be of great benefit. These include:

  • Ensuring enough sleep during the night
  • Eating balanced and healthy food 
  • Drinking enough water and not turning to alcohol for relief
  • Following the treatment prescribed and attend therapy appointments regularly
  • Socializing and make an effort to connect with people you enjoy being with
  • Planning a holiday to warm locations for winter SAD or cooler locations for summer SAD

It is vital to take signs of SAD seriously and reach out for help if you are experiencing this form of depression. Find the ways to keep your mood and motivation steady all through the year.

In summary, Seasonal Affective Disorder can have an effect on your sleeping patterns, eating habits and you energy overall. Despite this, there are varied professional help and self-supporting skills that can improve you seasonal challenges.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Charlot Cauchi is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy with Gestalt Psychotherapy Training Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. He has experience with adult clients with mental health difficulties, anxiety, depression, loss, trauma, stress and relational issues.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Association.
Melrose, S. (2015). Seasonal affective disorder: An overview of assessment and treatment approaches. Depression Research and Treatment.