The ABC’s of Coping With SAD and The Bitter Reality of Winter

Oh hello there winter! When did you get here? There are plenty of things to love about cold weather, like hot cocoa and hot cider and mulled wine (is it weird that all of my favorite things about winter are beverages?), but let’s be real, winter kinda blows. It doesn’t have the brisk weather benefits of layering up flannels and leather jackets in the early fall, it lasts FOREVER, and, if you live in a northern metropolis like NYC, you don’t even get snow. We get what is politely referred to as a “wintry mix,” which is honestly just fucking slush. It’s wet, cold, and entirely unsuitable for snowmen. Please don’t get me started on Christmas. I’m pretty much Mrs. Grinch.

It’s getting colder and colder by the day, and I cannot help but remember how helplessly sad I was last time around. This time, I’m gonna try to nip it in the bud. Here are some ways to stave off your cold weather blues.*

ABB: Always Be Baking

2014-10-01 16.49.00

So many benefits: your house will always be warm, smell of cinnamon, and your friends will always want to come over to eat. Less hungry, less lonely, more delicious. I try to avoid gluten and dairy, so there is the extra distracting challenge of updating regular old recipes to my dietary needs.

Buy A Bouquet


I mean, this is good advice for any time of the year, but nothing brightens up a living space like flowers. We just got this sparse but gorgeous purple number and now walking into my house feels like walking into a spa. Bouquets can die quickly, but will survive much longer with regular water changing and removal of dead leaves/petals. Alternatively, you could get a floral houseplant, but only if you’ve got a green thumb. I kill everything, and feel much less terrible about a dead and replaceable bouquet than an emaciated orchid plant.

Candle Cure-All

You could buy a baked good scented candle, but I think that’s just cruel. I personally don’t understand the appeal of having your house smell like apple pie if I cannot then eat said apple pie. I’m more of a “clean laundry” or “geranium” type of scent-seeker, but You Do You.

D… Vitamin-D, That Is

via fanpop

via fanpop

Bring the sunshine inside! Sunlamps offer some of the same health benefits as actual sunlight. This is an actual therapeutic treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder,* but even if you’re just feeling down it won’t hurt to have a little extra sunshine by your side. You can buy this compact sunlamp on Amazon for a reasonable price, but there are all variety of sunlamps for all variety of budgets.



Real talk, I cannot stand exercising. This is not an admirable attribute. It just is what it is, and I will likely pay for it in my old age. However, I discovered there are yoga poses you can do IN BED. There’s a compromise I can get down with. A little under-the-covers stretch before you go to sleep and right when you wake up can make just the difference in how you approach the day. I’m hoping this baby step will be the kick in the pants I need to start yoga-ing in an actual studio with all the fancy gear I bought all those years ago (unfortunately I can’t reclaim the 200+ yoga classes I never used).


You Already Know.

Get Cultured

An Octoroon at SoHo Rep in NYC via Maxamoo

An Octoroon at SoHo Rep in NYC via Maxamoo

Sometimes it feels like there is literally NOTHING to do in the wintertime. This is not true. You’re just being lazy. There are plenty of indoor activities to participate in: museums, plays… mostly museums and plays actually. They will be heated. Museums even have cute little restaurant/cafés where you can feel very cultured while sipping coffee and reading an art book. Bonus: if you hate Christmas shopping, museum bookstores are like a one-stop shop for prezzies.

Hit the Gym

I feel you Yonce (image via SportStylist)

I feel you Yonce (image via SportStylist)

Idk somebody told me this would help. Let me know how it “works out.”

You guys the alphabet is hella long and I’ve run out of letter-appropriate suggestions, but really I think the best thing to do when you’re feeling down is just do something. I’ll be here forever googling homoerotic pictures of Rihanna and sipping mulled wine, so if you’ve got more cures for weather-related melancholia drop ’em in the comments!

*Seasonal Affective Disorder [SAD] is a real, diagnosable illness that can be treated. While I have no idea if my brand of the blues is in fact SAD, if your seasonal depression feels very serious, you can seek treatment. Feel free to also bake cookies, though.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Hannah Hodson

Hannah Hodson is a 22-year old Brooklyn-bred writer and actor. She graduated Hampshire College with a very valuable BA in Theatre and Black Studies. She currently resides in DUMBO, Brooklyn, where she admires the view while writing poetry about gentrification, climate change, race, class and other heavy stuff, but tries to keep a positive outlook on it all. She recently met Abbi and Ilana from Broad City (IRL), and has photos to prove it. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter, for her thoughts on Beyonce.

Hannah has written 36 articles for us.


  1. Candles: YES! Totally agree on the baked good scent though. I bought lilac and “beach wood” scented candles yesterday (though some might argue that those are torture too because they make you want summer).

    Getting cultured: I just found out that my library rents out passes to three of the museums in my city.

    Speaking of which… libraries! It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve gotten so accustomed to everything being electronic that I had forgotten how nice it was to just spend a couple hours wandering around a library, browsing the shelves. It’s actually a lovely way to spend a cold, dark winter evening.

  2. True life. I love how this just ends because in the winter, that is me. Big project, I’ve done 40% of it. But its winter, so I don’t finish the project and then I end up spending all of my time binge watching some show that Netflix has been suggesting to me for months.

    But yes, the winter blues are so real, and I will definitely be using the under the cover yoga suggestions!

  3. “I kill everything, and feel much less terrible about a dead and replaceable bouquet than an emaciated orchid plant.” –Ditto! It’s like my heart is green but my thumbs are black..

    Also. Baking not only keeps you busy and fills your house with food, but it may also warm your house if the furnace isn’t yet working! Is no one else having this problem?

  4. i just started baking yesterday and have no plans to stop until it’s not dark 12 hours a day anymore. also, sex really is one of the best cures for any type of sad feels. like…orgasms work wonders y’all. so many endorphins.

  5. I would like to add to the get cultured part, that being a part of a book club or discussion group does WONDERS. My queer book club sustained me last year, and if you have a radical bookstore in your area, there’s a likelihood that something similar already excists. I also just joined a group that discusses two Jacobin articals once a month. There is also a kink book club in my town…

    Anyways, totally recommend joining or starting something like this (it’s real easy I promise!) because it’s just a nice way to meet and talk about interesting things! And your brain space is all wrapped up in theory and plot and ideas and not how goddamn cold it is.

  6. I love tulips for a good winter bouquet! They’re bright and happy and come in a million colors, and they aren’t TOO expensive. Right now there’s like a ton of them at the trader joe’s near me? In late winter/early spring there will be so many. SO MANY. The best thing about them is that they actually keep growing for a while after they’ve been cut, so when you get home they’ll be a little different!

    But if you’re bad about changing water, maybe try some alstromeria, statice or a big ol’ protea! They’re very hardy, and statice will dry and basically live forever.

    Lately I’ve also fallen completely in love with carnations–they’re cheap, they live forever and they can be really colorful and interesting and beautiful. Some of them even smell kind of spicy! Just avoid red carnations+baby’s breath+fern, because then it looks like you stole your bouquet from a diner. Unless that’s the look you’re going for, in which case, you do you, I guess?

    Also shit lasts way longer if you change the water and give the stems a fresh cut every so often, like even just an inch off the stems and new water every couple days makes such a big difference. Try not to let anything get moldy. Also very important: take off any leaves that might get in the water. If there’s leaves below the water line, your shit is going to rot way faster and probs also get moldy. Very very unfortunate.


      • I try, I try.

        ALSO: If that big gorgeous purple hydrangea gets sad looking, you could try giving it a water bath! You just fill up your sink or a bowl or something with cold water, then dunk the head of the hydrangea underwater, swish it around for a second or two, then pull it out, gently shake off the water, give the stem a fresh cut and put it back into a vase with new water! Hydrangea really like water.
        This works a lot of the time, but not always. BUT it’s worth a tryyy!

  7. Sun lamps can be great, but actual vitamin D tablets (3000 IU per day) make the difference between me being a zombie and me being a functional person during the winter.

    • Yes! I have to take 4000 year round but come winter its sometimes not enough to keep me feeling like I should. Its a tough time of year to be D deficient

  8. This could not have been well timed. Woke up this morning to darkness and several inches of the first snowfall of the year, and it hasn’t stopped so far.

  9. I am also pro-candles.

    Another thing not mentioned that helps me is taking care of/cuddling a pet. I just got 2 baby rats and needed to get up and take care of their tiny adorable faces sort of gets my day started in a way I maybe wouldn’t manage if it was just me. Also, fuzzy furcuddles and watching them do silly things are awesome distractions when it’s blustery and stupid outside

  10. Somehow it never occurred to me that baking often throughout the winter is a glorious idea! Thank you for all the great ideas

  11. These are all great ideas! Also, I love that this is the first guide to surviving the wintertime I’ve seen that actually understands how horrible “going to the gym” is. Flowers, candles, pie, etc. > treadmills any day of the week.

  12. Your comment “You’re just being lazy” is really disrespectful to people who actually have SAD, as it’s not laziness- it’s depression. I’m not trying to be rude, but you even said yourself that you don’t know if you have SAD, yet you’re giving advice for it… Maybe you should take the disorder out of the title and just write about overcoming winter blues. Also, using food as a coping mechanism can be triggering for those with eating disorders, and while I know you’re well intentioned, please be careful with giving advice regarding mental illness. I realize I’m going to get flack for this, but as a mental health advocate, I had to say something.

    • If someone knows that they use food in an unhealthy way to cope, then they can assess for themselves whether baking is a good idea. I have an eating disorder and didn’t find the food suggestions to be triggering or offensive. I know what food situations are triggering and which ones aren’t for me, but I don’t expect the rest of the world work around it. Not everyone with depression (or simply sub-clinical blues) has food issues, so I really don’t take issue with the OP suggesting baking or eating as a way to cope. But I do agree that the title probably would’ve been better without referencing “SAD”, since the OP isn’t specifically addressing this disorder.

    • I agree that SAD shouldn’t have been in the headline, since the author is not really giving mental health advice.

      That said, I think it’s a bit of stretch to call talking about baking to cheer yourself up offensive. I struggle with mental illness myself, and am very much in favor of being careful when using potentially triggering language – but not to the point where even a discussion of the joys of fresh baked pie is off-limits.

  13. This is a great list! I’m really glad you put that little disclaimer down at the bottom though, because the trend of self-diagnosing mental illness like SAD drives me bonkers.

    I grew up in a northern Midwest state where we got hella snow and cold weather, and I always hated winter because I love the outdoors and there was nothing I liked doing outside in the cold and snow. Until last year, when I got a pair of cross country skis for Christmas and fell in love with skiing! Finding something that I actually enjoy doing outdoors in the winter was instrumental in my becoming a winter enthusiast. So if you’re an outdoorsy person like me, it might be a good thing to try?

    And remember- there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!

    • “And remember- there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!”

      ^YES. If you live in a moderate, rainy climate like me (pacific northwest), goretex is your best friend. Wool is great too because it keeps you from freezing even when it’s damp. I personally find the gym mind-numbingly boring, so I exercise by spending time in the outdoors (walking, hiking, etc) even in bad weather. (Though I admit, I don’t have to deal with the frigid temperatures that many people do).

    • yes to this! it feels so great to brave the weather, breathe the cold air and see all the wondrous sights that winter offers to those intrepid enough to get out there!

      …and it feels doubly delicious to come in from the cold, tired and skin tingling, to coziness and a cup of something wonderful.

  14. Oh how I envy you all, going into winter. Southern Hemisphere summer is still around 5 weeks away and we’ve already had 100 degree temperatures and it’s supposed to go to 108 on Friday.

    I know being in freezing weather is no fun. I’m not trying to minimize anyone’s misery or denigrate SAD syndrome in any way but I’m so going to miss making lovely warm/hot food. Snuggling and oh!! Everything.

    Enjoy all the good winter stuff for me please and stay warm,well and look after yourselves. I’ll just go and sit on an ice block and try to find a way to make lettuce interesting. Best Love to you all.

  15. I happen to LOVE winter! There is nothing better than getting all bundled up and going for a long hike through trees. I’ve seen so many different kinds of birds and other wild things in the winter than any other time of the year.

  16. I’m pretty sure exercise actually is the best way to deal with the winter blahs. Er, second best, I mean.

  17. Foot baths really got me through last year. I used to take hot showers to warm up, but just heating up your feet real good actually works better. I would do this every single evening and it’s just beautiful. Here’s what I do:

    – put a full kettle of water on the stove.
    – get a mop bucket and fill it about 1/3 up with hot water from the tap.
    – add a handful of epsom salts and a few drops of essential oils to the bucket.
    – grab a towel and set it down along with the bucket in a nice sitting place.
    – when the kettle is done boiling, put it by your sitting place. this the backup hot water.
    – stick your feet in, relax, and when the water starts to feel cool add a little from your backup.

    highly highly highly recommend!

Comments are closed.