Seasonal Affective Disorder and Self-Care: How to Overcome the Cold Weather Blues

With winter comes much excitement: holidays, family, friends, gifts, joy, and new beginnings. Winter also means busy schedules, not enough “me” time, cold weather, and fewer hours of daylight, which all can have a dramatic impact on your day-to-day life. Many people may not realize it, but these seasonal weather changes can seriously impact mental health.

Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is a mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year in climates where there is less daylight. Symptoms include fatigue, depression, hopelessness, and social withdrawal. Treatment includes light therapy, antidepressant medications, talk therapy, or some combination of the three.

According to The American Psychiatric Association, taking care of general health and wellness also can help with SAD and depression; this includes regular exercise, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and staying active and connected with your family and community. It’s not as easy to stay active when the weather doesn’t permit you to go outdoors, so having plans for alternative activities for you and the family during the colder months can be greatly beneficial.

Stay active with your little ones with these winter activities:

  1. Enjoy holiday decor. If weather permits, layer up, grab your hot chocolate, and go for a walk around the neighborhood. Check out all the different lights, making sure to point out different colors, shapes, designs, and patterns you see. Great for all ages!
  2. Have a real snowball fight (or a makeshift one indoors). Enjoy the snow with a family fun snowball fight. No snow in your town? No problem! Use cotton balls to build snow scenes around the house. This creates hours of fun!
  3. Family dance party. Research has shown that music and movement can improve a child’s memory, cognitive development, learning skills, and expressive ability. So, get up and dance with your little one and favorite family-friendly songs!
  4. Family yoga. Yoga is an effective form of physical activity that helps manage stress and anxiety. It has been proven to have positive impacts on both adults and children. Set up some yoga mats on the floor and add yoga to your cold-weather routine.
  5. Set up an obstacle course. For older kiddos, gather supplies around the house and set up a course with its own rules. See who can get through it first, parents too (style points always included)!

Self-care is crucial to a positive family environment, yet it can be far more difficult to maintain during the cold months. Make sure to set aside “me” time for what makes you feel good. Pass that positive energy along to your little ones with fun activities that make the colder months enjoyable.

For more information on SAD (seasonal affective disorder), please visit