Top 5 tips for beating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression or winter depression, is known to get worse as the clocks go back. If you’re like me, and feel low mood setting in as it gets darker in the evenings come September, then take a look at these top tips for coping with SAD.

Keep your vitamin D levels up

This is the most important thing, since your body cannot store vitamin D for very long. In the winter months, many people in the UK suffer from a vitamin D deficiency without necessarily realising, since the days draw in and there are fewer opportunities to get sunlight. It’s best to take a vitamin D supplement of up to 10 micrograms, since it’s hard to get enough vitamin D from food sources alone, between September and April. If you struggle to swallow tablets, there are vitamin D sprays and teas on the market too. 

Try to go outside and exercise

This is also really important, since exercise can improve mood and help you feel more energised. Those who suffer with SAD may feel lethargic or anxious, so exercising can be hard. But simply going for a walk around some of Oxford’s beautiful parks and green spaces or getting out by strolling around its museums is enough. Group exercise classes like Zumba also release endorphins, and you may find that being around other gym-goers helps too. Get as much fresh air and sunlight as possible!

University Parks by Andrew Young on Unsplash

Invest in a light box

If you’re really struggling with SAD, or can feel its onset, then I highly recommend buying a light box. These can be fairly compact and purchased from places like John Lewis or Argos, and work by creating a very bright light that mimics the effects of sunlight. This allows production of melatonin to fall, and serotonin levels to increase.

Eating your breakfast in front of a light box, or having it on whilst you work at your desk, can give you a little boost. If a light box is out of your price range, check out sites like eBay, Vinted and Gumtree for second-hand ones, or buy ahead during stores’ winter and summer sales. Sunrise alarm clocks can also help you to wake up more gently, if you find it hard to get out of bed. 

Eat properly

When you’re depressed, doing the most basic of tasks can feel like a chore. But eating a healthy diet has a good effect on your mind, as well as your body. Try to implement healthy habits before your SAD is likely to kick in – for me, I start using a light box in late August/early September, and buy tinned vegetables, soups and pouches of lentils to bring back to uni with me.

For quick, healthy lunches, try falafel, bags of caesar salad, tuna and sweetcorn, baked beans and my personal favourite – a tin of ratatouille mix! This contains loads of veg including tomatoes and aubergines, is dead cheap, and can be paired with virtually any carb and protein for a delicious meal. Alternatively, try using it in place of chopped tomatoes for a quick and easy pasta sauce. 

Talk to someone

If you’re struggling with SAD it’s vital to speak to someone, whether that’s a friend, family member or GP. Everyone has different symptoms and reactions to treatments, and lots of people find antidepressants, cognitive behavioural therapy and talking therapies vital all year round. There’s no shame in reaching out to someone, particularly if you’re feeling irritable a lot of the time, or are struggling to sleep or carry out daily activities.

Samaritans are available to speak to 24/7. Image by Tolu Akinyemi on Unsplash.

But don’t let your mood get to rock bottom before you speak up. In Oxford, you can call nightline during term time for support, and you can email the Samaritans ( or text SHOUT to 85258 for a confidential chat. In an emergency, always call 999.