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  1. Employee Resources
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  3. Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder

Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder

Release Date: December 6, 2023

As the days become shorter and colder, it can be common for one’s mood and behaviors to change. In some cases, these mood changes can start to make you feel down and affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities. If you have noticed significant changes in your mood and behavior, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression which is triggered when the seasons change. SAD most commonly begins in late fall and resolves in early spring. Although the cause of SAD is not known, it is thought to be related to reduced exposure to sunlight, deficits in Vitamin D, imbalanced melatonin and serotonin levels, and disruptions in one’s circadian rhythm. Negative thoughts and feelings of stress about the change in season are also common among people with SAD.

If you are concerned that you may be suffering from SAD, reach out to your health care provider or a mental health specialist. Treatment options are available and may include light therapy, psychotherapy, or medication.

Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Feeling unhappy, hopeless, or worthless
  • Changes in sleep
  • Fatigue and a lack of energy
  • Loss of interest in work or other activities
  • Social withdrawal
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

There are many things you can do for yourself to help relieve symptoms of SAD. Below are tips to consider:

  • Exercise regularly and eat healthy, well-balanced meals
  • Focus on activities you enjoy
  • Get outside for daily sunlight exposure
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Spend time with loved ones
  • Set priorities and break large tasks into smaller ones
  • Be patient with yourself and focus on positive thoughts

Your Employee Assistance Program is Here to Help

Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help identify licensed mental health counselors in your area. For more information, contact your Component EAP, or send an email to worklife@hq.dhs.gov.

For additional resources, visit National Institutes of Mental Health’s page on Seasonal Affective Disorder. For more employee resources information, email worklife@hq.dhs.gov.

Last Updated: 12/06/2023
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