Ask Dr. Lowenstein: What can people do to cope with seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to upend life as we know it, people living in northern climates may be hit harder than ever with seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD or simply seasonal depression. Some people even refer to this seasonal funk as the winter blues. This year, with fewer or no getaways and outings to help counter the effects, it could be more difficult to cope with this seasonal woe.

Keep in mind that while the shorter days are already here, we’re still in the early part of the season. With that in mind, start planning ways to deal with the challenge. Don’t let the cold temps prevent you from getting outside each day. Bundle up and plan some outdoor activities, even if it’s just a daily walk in your neighborhood. Spending time outdoors and getting some exercise goes a long way toward improving your mood – even more so on days when the sun is shining.

You might also want to plan some indoor activities, such as game night or pizza night. Or pile in the car and take a drive in the country or to your favorite state park. Winter boasts its own share of beauty, including the wonders of nature and some of the most magnificent sunsets. During December, consider a drive through your favorite neighborhoods to view the holiday lighting as well.

Above all, don’t fall into the trap of sitting on the couch, watching TV and getting into a funk. Make sure each day has something you can look forward to – even if it seems uneventful by comparison. Don’t spend your days waiting for spring to return. There’s plenty to enjoy in the here and now.