February 14, 2022
February 18, 2022




(Toms River -)  The holidays are long gone, the pandemic is still hanging around and we recently dealt with the first blizzard of 2022. However, spring is still a long way in front of us and for many people it’s the heart of the winter blues season.


“For many people, the winter months can be depressing and can lead to symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder – or SAD. Mix in the on-going pandemic and it can be challenging to overcome,” said Daniel Regenye, Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer. “Symptoms of SAD can range from changes in appetite, a lack of energy and craving more sleep, social withdrawal and increased irritability.”


“SAD is a recurrent depression that usually happens for folks in the winter months. It correlates with the way that our body experiences changes in our circadian rhythm related to changes in exposure to daylight. Sunlight controls the levels of molecules that help maintain normal serotonin levels, but in people with SAD, this regulation does not function properly, resulting in decreased serotonin levels in the winter leading to sleep, mood and behavior changes.”*


The following tips are designed for SAD and winter mental health:

  • Listen to your body. Winter’s low light causes the brain to prepare for sleep more than it does in the summer months. Try going to bed 20-30 minutes earlier than usual. You might consider working in a power nap of about 30 minutes during the day.
  • Feed your winter hunger wisely. Stock up on nutritious foods. Eat nuts, yogurt, sweet potatoes, crackers and hummus dip, and other healthy foods instead of junk food. You’ll boost both mental and physical health.
  • Move! It’s fun to curl up in a blanket and read or watch movies, but our bodies still need movement for wellbeing. Set a timer to buzz every hour, and when it does, get up and walk around, stretch, climb stairs, or dance wildly. It’s a powerful mental health enhancer.
  • Vitamin D. We get this naturally from sunlight, which we lack in the winter. There is a strong link between depression and diet. If you’re prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a light therapy box may be a worthwhile investment.
  • Do things you wouldn’t normally do such as ice-skating or taking a brisk walk on the beach. Meditate and close your eyes; visualize sunny skies; hear birds chirping; taste the fresh squeezed lemonade. Listen to soothing sound effects recordings such as calming spring rain, ocean waves, forest sounds and other ambient soundscapes.
  • COMMIT TO A PLAN. For most people who suffer from SAD, the key to effective condition management is a disciplined plan of action regarding their daily wellbeing routine. Lack of motivation is a prominent symptom for many SAD sufferers. Those who commit to a clear routine are most likely able to successfully navigate the SAD season.

“In individuals that experience anxiety or depression, the isolation of the pandemic can trigger new emotions or additional severe symptoms,” Regenye added. “People who have never struggled with mental health issues may find themselves experiencing much more intense mood symptoms. However, recent research has shown many people affected by SAD are optimistic that their condition won’t be as bad this winter of the pandemic since there are more people going through the same struggles.”

If you think you may be suffering from SAD, talk to your health care provider or a mental health specialist about your concerns.


*National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


Learn more on mental health by visiting Visit the Ocean County Health or follow us on our Facebook page – You also can download the new free mobile app from the Google Play/Android & Apple APP store:

*University of North Carolina and Well Being