Feeling sad or depressed this season? You’re not alone.

By Regence
January 19, 2024
winter depression

Even in the best of years, the fall and winter months can be an emotionally challenging time for many people. Feelings of sadness or depression, sometimes referred to as the “winter blues” or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), can increase as the days get shorter and colder. Mental Health America reports, in any given year, about 5% of the U.S. population experiences seasonal depression.

Spotting the signs

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SAD is more than just a fleeting feeling of gloom. It’s a type of depression that recurs at the same time each year, typically starting in the late fall and early winter, then subsiding during the spring and summer months.

“Changes in weather and less sunlight affect everyone, but for some, the impact is deeper, leading to seasonal affective disorder,” says Andree Miceli, clinical director for behavioral health at Regence. “It’s important to remember it’s not anyone’s fault. It’s a natural response to these changes.”

Recognizing the signs is the first step towards managing these challenging months. Common symptoms include:

  • Persistent low mood
  • Oversleeping and difficulty waking up
  • Craving for carbohydrates and weight gain
  • Feeling tired or irritable
  • Loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy

SAD self care – steps you can take

While seasonal sadness can be intense, we can take actions to feel better through the winter months These include:

  • Eat healthy food, exercise regularly and get enough sleep
  • Spend time outside to enjoy natural light and fresh air
  • Stop “doom scrolling” and limit exposure to negative information
  • Connect with people in your life who you know and love
  • Consider buying a medical-grade device called a lightbox, which provides natural light that can improve your mood

We’re here to help

Seasonal depression can feel overwhelming and isolating. It’s important to remember that we’re not alone. For additional support and practical tips—particularly for seniors who may be experiencing loneliness—read our blog post, “8 ways seniors can combat loneliness and social isolation.”

If you or your loved one needs emotional support or mental health care, we can help you find the behavioral health care option that fits your needs. Most of our health plans offer virtual mental health treatment options from providers such as AbleTo Therapy+, Doctor on Demand, Talkspace, Charlie Health and more. No referral is needed – you can visit the provider website and fill out their intake form for an appointment. 

Regence also offers access to traditional and virtual substance use disorder treatment providers such as Boulder Care, Eleanor Health (WA only) and Hazelden Betty Ford. If your employer has an employee assistance program (EAP), your use of the program is confidential and at low or no cost. 

We encourage you to visit these providers’ websites or call our customer service team at the number listed on your member ID card to verify which virtual care and traditional behavioral health options are available through your health plan. 

Remember 988 – the new National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors who will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if needed.