UW Health gives recommendations for combating S.A.D.

Light will become more restricted shortly as daylight savings in Wisconsin ends Monday, Nov. 1, 2020 at 2:00 a.m. Photo courtesy of SSWJ, licensed under Creative Commons.

Author: Jessica Gregory

UW Health released a statement Wednesday emphasizing the importance of entering the winter season with proactive resources and outlets.

In their press release, UW Health said that four to six percent of Americans experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a depression that’s triggered by the cold and dark winter months. An even higher percentage of Americans experience a milder form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, adding an additional 10-20%.

This year, many more Americans are at risk of having symptoms of the disorder with the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and a heightened political climate.

Shilagh Mirgain, a psychologist at UW Health, says that creating a COVID-19 Winter Resistance toolkit can benefit both mental health and overall health. Essential tools recommended by Mirgain are as follows:

  • Be active ̶̶̶ ­regular exercise has been shown to reduce depression and help prevent it.
  • Shift your focus ̶̶̶ instead of dwelling on your problems turn your perspective outside of yourself, such as do a kind act, help someone, express gratitude to others or feel awe for the world around you.
  • Stay connected ̶̶̶ connect with others in person or virtually.
  • Get outside ̶̶̶ spending time outdoors is always good for mental health.
  • Engage in self-care ̶̶̶ eat healthy foods, prioritize good sleep, and maintain a daily routine. 
  • Vitamin D3 ̶̶̶ in northern climates, like Wisconsin, the sun’s rays are not strong enough to give us what we need.  Talk with your doctor about supplements.  The daily recommendation in the US is 1,000 international units.  Mushrooms and fish are also a natural source of vitamin D.
  • Light therapy ̶̶̶ consider using a light therapy box, which have been proven to be effective for certain individuals with SAD.
  • Call your doctor ̶̶̶ speak with your physician if you experience feelings of being down and have no interest in doing the things you used to enjoy, especially if these symptoms are disruptive or you are having thoughts of suicide.

Additional mental health resources are listed below.

Silvercloud: a mental health online resource through UHS that does not require a referral and is available 24/7.

UHS Mental Health Services

UHS 24/7 Crisis Services: 608-265-5600

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255