Let the Light In: Seasonal Affective Disorder It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, for many people it is, but for some, it’s not. The days get darker earlier and earlier; holiday stress buildup can get overwhelming; it’s more of a challenge to get out and get active. As it turns out, it might not just be “the winter blues.”

If this time of year is really difficult for you, mentally and emotionally, there’s a good chance you might be dealing with seasonal affective disorder. First know—there’s nothing “wrong” with you. Millions of people experience SAD each year. The first step toward feeling better is understanding what’s happening. Here’s a breakdown of common SAD symptoms, suggested next steps and some natural aids that may help you feel better.

What is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is a type of clinical depression that changes with the seasons. Usually, SAD will start around the same period of time each year (for most, that’s early winter) and then end around spring or summer. For a few cases, it’s the opposite seasonal pattern, but that’s fairly rare.

How Can I Spot It?

Although every case is different for each person, according to Mayo Clinic, the general signs and symptoms of SAD may include: feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty; experiencing sluggishness and/or frequent agitation; losing interest in beloved activities; oversleeping, tiredness and low energy; appetite changes and weight gain; thoughts of suicide or death.

What Do I Do?

If you think you or someone you know could be experiencing SAD, it’s time to get to a doctor. Only a doctor can officially diagnose you, and after that diagnosis, you can begin to take action steps toward feeling better. In the meantime, here are some all-natural alternatives you can try. Remember, not everyone’s body is the same, so it may take a couple of attempts before you find something that can help you, and that’s perfectly OK.

Let the Light In: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Aromatherapy. Essential oils have the capability of influencing the part of the brain that helps regulate moods, sleep rhythms and appetite. Add a few drops of lavender to your bath at night to help you relax, or inhale a bit of bergamot oil or ylang ylang.

Nutrition. Focus on lean proteins, leafy greens and healthy fats to regulate hormones and balance out serotonin levels. Craving carbs? Try some sweet potatoes, quinoa, acorn squash or black beans—in moderation of course.

Light Therapy. Between 60-80 percent of SAD patients see positive results after using an artificial light box. Just 15-30 minutes of exposure each day can boost production of melatonin and improve mood.

Exercise. Much like light therapy, exercise can greatly reduce the severity of depression; many studies point toward a link between physical activity and boosted serotonin levels. Just a little bit of activity, like walking on a treadmill or dancing to a good beat, can help!

Disclaimer: This post is not a substitute for advice or analysis from a medical professional.