Health and Wellness

5 Ways to Cope With Seasonal Depressive Disorder, as told by Amazonians

If you’ve ever experienced Seasonal Depressive Disorder, or SAD, you know it is a quaint little acronym for what can be serious—even debilitating—symptoms.

While it can look like other depressive disorders, SAD occurs seasonally. Decreased sunlight in fall and winter can alter your body's internal clock—compare Seattle’s measly 8 hours 25 minutes on the winter solstice to almost 16 hours of daylight on the summer solstice—which can lead to depressed feelings. It can also cause a drop in serotonin, the brain chemical that affects mood. And given that Seattle gets more than 150 days of rain annually on average, it’s no surprise that locals are well acquainted with the struggle.

About 5 percent of adults in the U.S. experience it, and it typically lasts about 40 percent of the year, according to the American Psychiatric Association. The National Institute of Mental Health notes that SAD is diagnosed four times more often in women than in men.

If SAD strikes, it's common to feel depressed most of the day, almost every day. You might find your energy level tanking, and that you’re just not interested in doing much you used to enjoy. It can also mean major changes to sleep or weight (usually sleeping and eating more, whereas non-seasonal depression may be marked by weight loss and insomnia), social withdrawal—even suicidal thoughts.

And 2020 might be an especially hard year for symptoms. Instead of going into the gray months buoyed by the sun-kissed glow and elevated mood of summer, Amazonians have long been isolated from social situations for months already. Soon, shorter days and gloomy weather stand to compound the mental health toll brought on by the pandemic.

If you experience SAD, take comfort in knowing there are actionable steps you can take to boost your mental health and feel better. Here, Amazonians experienced with the condition share their own tips and tricks for feeling upbeat and coping healthily through the bleak winter months.

Try light therapy. Light therapy, using artificial bright light to mimic sunlight, can give those dipping brain chemicals a boost. “I have a UV-simulating light at eye level in my bathroom and it helps me wake up,” says Amazonian Jacque Themel. “I also have an all-in-one UV lamp alarm system by my bedside so that light slowly comes on and helps me get off to a good start in the morning.”

Foster an animal. If your housing unit allows, try fostering an animal for some science-backed pet therapy. “A lot of folks are adopting right now and I think that's great,” Themel says. “My concern is if people are thinking long term. If you foster, you get that physical touch, which is actually really good for people, and you’re giving that animal a treat. That's a win-win.”

If you’re in Seattle, visit a shelter like Seattle Humane or PAWS to foster an animal. If that’s too much to take on, the same organizations also welcome volunteers. Or, consider spending some time as a dog walker through an app like Rover—which gets you both quality time with animals and some mental health-boosting physical exercise, too.

Get outside. Nature is therapeutic—so get outside as much as possible even (especially!) in those grey months. Areas surrounding Seattle offer endless opportunities.

“I went to a cabin in the woods. It’s great as a way to get outside your little space and reconnect with something that's more calming,” Themel says. “It feels refreshing, and at least you can take that midday walk in the woods, instead of around your neighborhood.”

Amazonian John Alaimo also plans to make it a priority to get outside more this season. He’ll head to Seattle-area environs for “some light hiking, maybe some snowshoeing, get out there in the sun as much as possible,” he says.

Free apps like AllTrails and BikeMap—and even Google Maps—can point you to a trailhead near you that’s just right for your experience level and the amount of time you have.

Schedule something. Alaimo has long struggled with the seasonal transition, so he says makes sure to schedule a vacation to get some extra sun. “I schedule it right in the middle of the darker months just to break things up, and knowing that I have that to look forward to helps right away,” he says.

He says that planning a trip helps establish a vacation psychology all season long. “Before a sunny vacation, maybe you get a little more fit, more active, so planning a trip keeps that mindset and pattern of activity going through winter.” He does plan to travel even during the pandemic—even if just domestically.

But even smaller, more local commitments can help. Themel plans to schedule more daytime meetups with friends this season, such as lunchtime walks. And she has a regular family dinner on the calendar. “Every three weeks, we get together and order out, do a potluck, or somebody cooks, and we spend a few hours together. It’s lovely,” she says. And importantly, it’s something to plan around and look forward to.

Eat what you love. Themel runs a coaching business for eating disorder recovery, and says her “big passion” for that purpose-driven work helps anchor her through the winter months. But it also informs her strategy to embrace comfort food. “I have a different stance than you might hear from a lot of folks on this, but I believe in intuitive eating and I don’t think winter is a time to cut out food,” she says. “In fact, I would say it’s quite the opposite: I think now more than ever is the time to allow yourself access to comforting foods.”

Her advice is to avoid restrictions, “as often that leads to restrict-binge [cycle] and worse outcomes in the long run.”

Call in the pros. If none of these ideas help—or don’t help enough—that’s OK. You’re not alone. “SAD is really hard and sometimes medication and therapy is helpful,” Themel says. “In winter, keep up with seeing your therapist on a regular basis—and if you need medication, take it. I know I do, and it helps.”

Alaimo, who is the co-founder of Amazon’s mental health and wellbeing employee resource group, agrees. “I’m very open with my mental health, and it’s all about having open conversations and checking in,” he says. “I use psychiatry and therapy and have a good community at work and at home. All those things are good for keeping yourself honest and being proactive.”

Know that you have options, too: Download the Amazon Care app to get health advice by chat or video, quickly and efficiently, 24 hours a day.

Health and Wellness

Breast Cancer Awareness

Let us answer some commonly asked questions about breast cancer so you can arm yourself with the information you need to prioritize your breast health.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

A Fresh Look at COVID-19

Consider this your up-to-date guide to stay as safe as possible for the rest of 2021 and beyond.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

You Can Strengthen Your Immune System—Here’s How

Give your immune system the boost it needs with these vitamins, foods, and healthy habits.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

Decoding Diabetes: A Look at the Types, Testing, & Treatment

Diabetes is more common than you may realize. Here’s what you need to know to stay well and watch out for warning signs.
Continue reading
Everyday Care

How to Relieve Your UTI, and Keep Another From Coming Back

It’s estimated that at least 60% of women will experience a UTI in their lifetimes and daily habits can make a big difference in preventing them, here’s how.
Continue reading
Everyday Care

Below-the-Belt Symptoms Men Shouldn’t Ignore

Learn more about how Urinary Tract Infection‍ (UTIs), Kidney Stones, Enlarged Prostate, Erectile Dysfunction and Hemorrhoids can affect men.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

Clearing Up Your Teen’s Acne Questions

Skin issues can come to a head during the teen years. Here are a few tricks to help you and your kid get through it.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

The Types of Exercise That Will Give Your Body a Boost

You know exercise is good for the body. But what kind of exercise is the best for your body?
Continue reading
Everyday Care

Why Do I Always Have a Headache?

Why headaches happen, what you can do to prevent and treat them, and when you need to see a professional.
Continue reading
Care Made Easy

8 Questions to Ask At Your Annual Preventative Health Visit

Get the most out of your annual visit with these top questions. It’s not always easy to go through with your annual check-up for your health.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

A Diabetic’s Guide to Eating Well

Eat smart and stabilize your blood sugar with these key strategies.
Continue reading
Everyday Care

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Heart Health Today

There’s no muscle more important than your heart. Every day, it goes to work pumping blood and nutrients throughout your body.
Continue reading
Everyday Care

Menopause 101: What it Looks Like and How To Live With It

It can be challenging to know when menopause occurs. Here’s what you need to watch for and what to expect.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

Why Self-Care Is So Important for Mental Health

Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated. Find out how to simplify your routine and build a regular practice to reap the mental health benefits.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

So You Want to Try Intermittent Fasting?

Get the ins and outs of this now-trendy eating pattern to see if it could be right for you.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

Healthy alternatives to unhealthy coping mechanisms

How you de-stress can help or hurt your health. Check out some common coping mechanisms and see if your go-tos are helping or hurting your health.
Continue reading
Everyday Care

What Those Aches and Pains Really Mean

Getting to the root cause of your pain will speed up diagnosis and recovery. Take control of your pain today.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

New Challenge to Improve these 6 Areas of Your Health

Tap here for practical ways to improve your lifestyle habits. Amazon Care is offering a free six-week email course to help you form better habits.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

A 3-Part Series to Help you Build Habits Rooted in Happiness

Tap here for 5 habit hacks to keep new habits sticking all year long.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

How One Mom Juggled Virtual School and Full Time Work During COVID-19

Anna Edwards, President of Families@, shares her list of top parenting tips for working from home. Tap here to read them.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

What It’s Like To Be a First-Time Parent In 2020

On February 20th, Pooja Roaorane and Anupam Dighe welcomed their first child into the world, days before Seattle went into lock-down. Read their story.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

How One Amazon Mom Balances Work, Family, and The Pandemic

Tiffany Spatafore, Head of Brand Development at Amazon Music, and her family have been together in their small Seattle home since the pandemic started.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

5-minute Breathing Exercises to Help You De-stress Anywhere

There are many different ways to focus on your breathing, you are bound to find one that feels good. Tap here for 4 to try now.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

Simple Ways to Make Moving Your Body Easier and Enjoyable

Studies show that exercise lowers your blood pressure, blood sugar and helps you sleep. Tap here for a list of ways to make it easier to get and keep moving.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

Stress Relief Techniques That Actually Work

Tap here for 4 ways to help your body breathe a sigh of relief and know that, everything is okay.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

4 Practical, Feel-Good Habits Worth Forming in 2021-And How to Do It

Read on for four habits you can implement today to take better care this coming year.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

The Rise of Digital Health in Charts

Virtual healthcare has taken off in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tap here for a list of the top trends in the industry according to experts.
Continue reading
Everyday Care

Delaying Medical Care During COVID-19. There’s a Better Way.

A healthcare clinician, whether in times of stress or critical need or for routine checkups, can help prevent chronic conditions and improve quality of life.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

How To Make Your WFH Setup More Comfortable (and Healthy).

Customize your office to improve your posture and get moving. Stretching can also help to alleviate any back, shoulder, and neck pain. Tap here for 3 stretches.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

Small Diet Changes That Lead to the Biggest Health Changes

Plant food based diets significantly lower your risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. Tap here for a few ways to start eating well.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

A 3-Week Habit-Building Challenge to Start Off the Year Right

Each week, you will receive an email detailing how to select habits that will help you to set reasonable and attainable goals.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

How Can I Help My Kids Manage Stress in a Healthy Way?

Tap here for a list of signs that your child may be experiencing stress and anxiety, and what parents can do to help kids cope when those feelings arise.
Continue reading
Community

Meet Three Muralists Spreading Care Around Seattle

Tap here to learn more about these three remarkable artists and their creative inspiration behind each mural.
Continue reading
Everyday Care

A Guide to Kid Fevers

If you are worried about fever, you are in good company, and it doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. Tap here to learn when you should call a doctor.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

Six Steps for Getting Better Sleep —and Why It Matters to Your Overall Health

Too little sleep makes us irritable and causes headaches, stomach troubles, anxiety and depression. Tap here for 6 steps to getting better sleep.
Continue reading
Everyday Care

3 Ways To Keep Your Family Safe From Wildfire Smoke

Here are 3 ways to ensure the safety of you and your family.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

How to Capture the Healing Power of Nature at Your Desk

Tap here to learn how sunlight, listening to natural sounds, and a stress reduction playlist can be as healing as the great outdoors.
Continue reading
Everyday Care

Now Available: Primary And Preventive Care Services

Amazon Care is now offering even more healthcare services to care for you and your family, including primary and preventative care. Learn how to get started.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

Managing Loneliness During the Holidays

If you find yourself feeling stuck in it this season, here are 6 steps you can take to connect to others and deepen your connection with yourself.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

Why Can't I Sleep?

Hours of sleep does not necessarily correlate with quality. Care Medical clinicians can help you to identify sleep issues and manage better nighttime habits.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

Creative Ways to Find Community During COVID-19

There are lots of good options for finding like-minded folks with whom you can spend your time safely online or outdoors. Tap here for 3 places to start.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

Worried about Quarantine Drinking Habits? Here’s What to Do

Tap here for 3 signs of high-risk drinking and how to cut back. Too much alcohol can lead to the development of chronic diseases and mental health problems.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

5 Ways to Cope With Seasonal Depressive Disorder, as told by Amazonians

Limited sunlight in fall and winter can cause a drop in serotonin, the brain chemical that affects mood. Tap here for 5 tips to cope through the winter months.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

Your Complete Guide to Sore Throats (And How to Treat Them)

Sore throats are one of the most common reasons people see their family practitioner. Learn about sore throat causes, treatment and when to seek care.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

Three Strategies for Breaking Negative Thought Patterns in Minutes

If you find yourself worrying over something you think might happen, you can do these 4 steps in your head or write them on a piece of paper.
Continue reading
Health and Wellness

Making Big Leaps with Moderation: Updating Your Relationship with Risky Substances

Research shows that substance use is on the rise in COVID-19. Interested in exploring your relationship to substances? Tap here to try these 4 tips.
Continue reading
Everyday Care

How to Know if You Have a Cold, the Flu, or COVID-19

Tap here to see charts with information from experts to help you interpret your symptoms.
Continue reading
Community

Fun Ways to Protect You and Your Family this Halloween

There are fun ways to enjoy Halloween this year while also mitigating the risk of contracting or spreading COVID.
Continue reading
Pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness
Health and Wellness

Breast Cancer Awareness

Let us answer some commonly asked questions about breast cancer so you can arm yourself with the information you need to prioritize your breast health.
Continue Reading
Breast Cancer Awareness
Person with thumbs up and bandage on arm after an immunization
Health and Wellness

A Fresh Look at COVID-19

Consider this your up-to-date guide to stay as safe as possible for the rest of 2021 and beyond.
Continue Reading
A Fresh Look at COVID-19
A colorful salad sits on top of a wooden table.
Health and Wellness

You Can Strengthen Your Immune System—Here’s How

Give your immune system the boost it needs with these vitamins, foods, and healthy habits.
Continue Reading
You Can Strengthen Your Immune System—Here’s How
Download the app to get started
Click to download from the App StoreClick to download from Google Play
Care Team available for virtual care or questions 7 days a week through the app*
Make appointments in advance - around your schedule
In-person follow-up care when you need it*
* Only available in select locations.