Braving the Windy City Winters: SpringSource Psychological Center’s Expertise for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Written by: Angela Derrick, Ph.D. & Susan McClanahan, Ph.D.

Date Posted: December 12, 2023 1:39 am

Braving the Windy City Winters: SpringSource Psychological Center’s Expertise for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Braving the Windy City Winters: SpringSource Psychological Center’s Expertise for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Winter in Chicago presents a unique set of challenges for its residents, especially when it comes to mental health. Dubbed the Windy City, Chicago experiences harsh winters with heavy snowfall and strong gusts of wind, significantly impacting daily life, commuting, and overall well-being. As the winter blues begin to affect individuals in the community, SpringSource Psychological Center offers expert guidance and support to navigate the seasonal challenges.

Understanding the effects of winter on one’s mental health is crucial in combating these challenges. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and general winter blues can lead to depression, anxiety, and mood fluctuations. With SpringSource Psychological Center’s expertise in this field, individuals can better understand the triggers of these emotional states and learn effective coping mechanisms to maintain their well-being and quality of life during the cold season.

SpringSource Psychological Center offers a range of innovative approaches to managing and improving mental health during winter, employing personalized therapy, support sessions, and community engagement programs. By prioritizing a proactive and resilience-building approach, struggling individuals can get out in front of the winter blues and become better equipped to handle the challenges of future winters.

Key Takeaways

  • Chicago winters present mental health challenges that SpringSource Psychological Center’s clinicians can help individuals navigate.
  • Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder and winter blues is possible with expert guidance and support.
  • SpringSource Psychological Center employs a range of innovative methods to boost mental health and resilience during the winter months.

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Winter Blues

Definition and Symptoms of SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during specific seasons, typically winter. It is characterized by a range of symptoms such as low mood, feelings of hopelessness, lack of energy, changes in weight and appetite, difficulty concentrating, and even thoughts of suicide or death. Winter SAD, specifically, may be a particularly difficult time due to the extra stress of cold and dark conditions.

How Chicago Winters Can Exacerbate These Conditions

Chicago, located in northern Illinois, experiences extreme winter weather conditions, including heavy snowfall, low temperatures, and high wind speeds. The harsh climate can worsen SAD symptoms for the city’s residents. Some factors contributing to this worsening include:

  • North latitude: Chicago’s geographical location at a high northern latitude result in shorter daylight hours and longer nights during winter. This reduction in sunlight exposure can trigger SAD in some people.
  • Snowfall and precipitation: The Windy City is known for its significant snowfall and precipitation during the winter months. Snow-covered streets and sidewalks can make it difficult for individuals to get outdoors and engage in physical activities, which are crucial for maintaining mental health.
  • Wind speed and temperature: Chicago’s winter temperatures often dip below freezing, and the city’s notorious wind whipping between buildings can make it feel even colder. This extreme cold and wind can discourage people from venturing outside, further limiting their exposure to natural sunlight.
  • Stress and anxiety: Chicago residents may experience additional stress and anxiety due to weather-related factors like commuting difficulties, home heating costs, and concerns about climate change. These stressors can contribute to the development or worsening of mood disorders, including SAD.

Key Strategies to Combat Winter Blues

Light Therapy and Its Benefits

Light therapy has been proven to be an effective method for managing winter blues. Research shows that exposure to bright light can improve mood and energy levels in individuals experiencing seasonal challenges. Light therapy is especially beneficial for those living in the northern and western regions, where sunlight can be scarce during the winter months. A common approach to light therapy involves using a lightbox, which mimics outdoor light and is believed to affect brain chemicals linked to mood.

Staying Active and Connected During Cold Months

Staying active and maintaining social connections are essential for mental health during the winter months. Engaging in regular exercise can release endorphins, reduce stress, and improve mood. Furthermore, participating in community events or connecting with friends and family can help individuals feel supported and less isolated. It is important to be mindful of the environment and prioritize indoor activities or dress appropriately for outdoor activities to stay warm and safe.

Healthy Diet and Sleep Patterns

Maintaining a balanced diet can help to improve mood and energy levels during the winter months. It is essential to maintain a good balance of proteins, vitamins, and minerals to prevent or minimize winter blues. Incorporating a healthy diet that includes whole foods and limits processed sugars can help to increase energy levels and combat depression. Moreover, establishing consistent sleep patterns promotes mental health and overall well-being, minimizing symptoms associated with winter blues.

The Role of SpringSource Psychological Center in Your Winter Wellness Journey

Overview of SpringSource Center’s Psychological Services

SpringSource Psychological Center is a collaborative practice founded by two Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologists, Susan McClanahan and Angela Derrick. Their goal is to help individuals heal from various life stressors, such as relationship concerns, depression, anxiety, trauma, and even seasonal affective disorder.

The core values of SpringSource Psychological Center include compassion, collaboration, and mindfulness. They are committed to providing the highest quality mental health care by employing skilled therapists and implementing evidence-based practices.

Some of the services offered at SpringSource Psychological Center include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Couples therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy

How Our Professionals Can Help with Seasonal Challenges?

Winters can be especially harsh in cities like Chicago. The cold, windy weather and decreased sunlight may contribute to feelings of sadness, low energy, and fatigue. These symptoms could be indicative of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which affects millions of people worldwide.

At SpringSource Psychological Center, licensed clinical psychologists and therapists specialize in addressing such seasonal challenges. They can help individuals develop coping strategies, enhance emotional resilience, and maintain mental health while experiencing the inevitable difficulties of winter.

Some of the approaches adopted by SpringSource professionals to tackle seasonal challenges include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This evidence-based approach helps individuals identify and change thought patterns that contribute to negative emotions and behaviors.
  • Mindfulness-based interventions: These practices, including meditation and mindfulness exercises, are designed to help individuals become more present with their experiences and direct their mind towards more adaptive ways of thinking, promoting emotional regulation and well-being
  • Lifestyle-focused interventions: Therapists may guide clients in making changes to their daily routines, such as staying physically active, getting adequate sleep, and maintaining a healthy diet, to help reduce symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

Personalized Therapy and Support

Tailored Therapy Sessions to Address Individual Needs

At SpringSource Psychological Center, the experienced clinical psychologists understand that each individual is unique and requires personalized therapy to effectively address their mental health concerns. These concerns may include depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship concerns, life transitions, and mood disorders.

The center offers a variety of therapeutic approaches designed to meet the needs of their clients. For example, the clinicians may utilize cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or psychodynamic therapy, depending on the client’s specific needs and goals.

  • Depression: clients struggling with depression can benefit from CBT and interpersonal therapy approaches to address negative thought patterns and improve social relationships.
  • Anxiety: DBT techniques help clients manage anxiety and stress through mindfulness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance.
  • Trauma: clients experiencing trauma may benefit from eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, which helps process unresolved traumatic memories or Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT).
  • Relationship concerns: couple’s therapy or family therapy, including Emotion Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) can help clients improve communication and resolve conflicts in their relationships.

Support Groups and Community Resources

In addition to tailored therapy sessions, SpringSource Psychological Center recognizes the power of community in promoting mental health and well-being. They offer various support groups to help clients connect with others facing similar challenges. These groups can provide emotional support, encouragement, and practical advice to help members manage their mental health concerns.

Furthermore, the center can recommend community resources to ensure that their clients have access to additional support and services. This may include connecting clients with local mental health organizations, educational programs, employment assistance, and other services that may help them navigate life transitions and cope better with life’s stressors.

Innovative Approaches to Winter Wellness

Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

SpringSource Psychological Center has been researching innovative ways to help individuals brave the harsh winters of the Windy City and maintain their mental health. One of these approaches is the integration of mindfulness and relaxation techniques to combat the stress that can arise during the winter months.

Mindfulness involves being present in the moment and engaging in activities that promote self-awareness and relaxation. These practices contribute to overall well-being, reduce stress levels, and may even alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Some popular mindfulness techniques include:

  • Meditation: Focusing on your breath, body sensations, or a specific mantra to quiet the mind and cultivate self-awareness.
  • Yoga: Combining physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to enhance strength, flexibility, and mental clarity.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Gradually tensing and relaxing each muscle group to release tension and promote relaxation.

If your diet or exposure to sunlight doesn’t provide sufficient vitamin D, consider consulting with your doctor about the possibility of taking a supplement, particularly during the winter months.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that typically affects individuals during the colder months. It is characterized by symptoms such as persistent low mood, fatigue, and social withdrawal. SpringSource Psychological Center offers Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as an effective treatment for SAD, tailored to address the unique challenges of winter.

CBT is a structured and goal-oriented therapy that aims to identify and replace negative thought patterns with more constructive ones. This approach has been proven effective for various mental health issues and can be particularly beneficial for managing the winter blues. Key components of CBT for SAD include:

  1. Identifying negative thoughts: Recognizing and challenging harmful thought patterns that contribute to feelings of sadness or despair.
  2. Developing coping strategies: Establishing practical and healthy ways to manage stress and maintain a positive mindset during the winter months.
  3. Schedule adjustment: Making adjustments to daily routines to optimize exposure to sunlight, which can help improve mood and energy levels.

Through incorporating mindfulness practices and specialized CBT techniques, SpringSource Psychological Center is at the forefront of providing support and resources to help individuals navigate the challenges of Windy City winters and maintain their mental health.

Building Resilience for Future Winters

Chicago’s winters can be challenging, and it is essential to build resilience to face these seasonal challenges. SpringSource Psychological Center’s expertise provides guidance on managing mental health and well-being during winter, with a focus on the long-term impact.

Tips for Long-Term Mental Health and Resilience

  • Research and learn: Stay informed of local and national research on mental health, resilience, and coping mechanisms through reliable sources.
  • Stay connected: Maintain strong connections with friends, family, and neighbors, as a robust support network is essential to maintaining mental well-being.
  • Engage in stress management: Practice relaxation techniques, like mindfulness meditation, breathing, yoga, or tai chi, to help cope with the stresses of seasonal challenges.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and ensure adequate sleep to keep your body and mind in shape. If you use caffeine or alcohol, do so sparingly with the knowledge that these things can negatively impact your mental health if overused.  This prepares you for both day-to-day challenges and potential winter-related stressors.

Preparing for Next Winter: Proactive Mental Health Strategies

  • Build a support network: Before winter arrives, establish a network of professional and personal resources you can turn to when feeling overwhelmed.
  • Develop a personal resilience plan: Identify possible challenges and develop strategies to overcome them. This plan can evolve, incorporating lessons learned during previous winters.
  • Educate yourself on mental health resources: Be aware of available mental health resources in your community. Familiarize yourself with local support services, therapies, and practitioners.
  • Practice self-compassion: Research shows that it is essential to be kind and understanding towards yourself during challenging times, recognizing that everyone faces struggles and that it is okay to ask for help.  Those who are kinder to themselves tend to be more resilient than those who are blaming/shaming towards themselves.

Shine Through the Winter Blues with SpringSource

Haunted by the specters of anxiety, depression, or unresolved trauma? Feeling the chill of Seasonal Affective Disorder? As the days shorten and shadows lengthen, your mood shouldn’t have to follow suit. At SpringSource Psychological Center, we specialize in lighting up your life during the darker months.

Our expert team understands the unique challenges of Seasonal Affective Disorder, offering tailored therapy to rekindle your inner warmth and vitality.

Don’t let the winter gloom hold you captive. Embrace the chance to thrive all year round with SpringSource. Reach out to SpringSource and step into a life where your mental health is your strength, not your struggle.


Chicago winters can pose various challenges, but with the proper knowledge and resources, it’s possible to navigate the seasonal obstacles effectively. A key aspect of facing winter in the Windy City is understanding its weather patterns. With average temperatures ranging from 20°F to 35°F during the season, preparing for freezing days and snow is essential for physical and mental well-being.

Proactively addressing mental health is essential, as the winter months can often trigger symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Taking advantage of the resources offered by SpringSource Center can significantly help manage stress and promote overall wellness. One can use their expertise to develop tailored strategies to maintain a positive mindset during the colder months.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer. It’s more than just the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk; SAD can affect your mood, sleep, appetite, and energy levels, significantly impacting your daily life.

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

The specific cause of SAD isn’t fully understood, but it’s believed to be related to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter days of the year. This can disrupt your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm), lead to drops in serotonin (a brain chemical that affects mood), and imbalance melatonin levels, which play a role in sleep patterns and mood.

How is Seasonal Affective Disorder treated?

Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy, and medications. Light therapy involves exposure to artificial light using a light box that mimics natural outdoor light, which appears to cause a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD. Psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can also be effective in treating SAD. In some cases, antidepressant medications might be recommended, particularly if symptoms are severe.

 How can one maintain an active lifestyle in the face of harsh wind chills and snow?

Despite the cold and snowy conditions, it’s possible to maintain an active lifestyle in Chicago during winter. Indoor activities such as gym workouts, swimming at heated pools, and group fitness classes can be alternatives to outdoor exercises. Outdoor enthusiasts can also enjoy winter-specific activities like ice-skating, snowboarding, and skiing at various locations in and around the city.

What are the best strategies for commuting in Chicago during winter months?

Commuting in Chicago during winter can be challenging due to snow and ice on the roads. It’s essential to plan and be prepared for potential delays. Public transportation, such as buses and trains, can help avoid driving in harsh conditions. When driving, having a well-maintained vehicle is vital, as keeping an emergency kit on hand and staying updated on weather conditions and road closures is vital.

What measures should be taken to winter-proof one’s home or apartment in the Windy City?

To winter-proof a home or apartment in Chicago, residents should seal any gaps or cracks around windows and doors, ensure proper insulation, and install weather stripping. Additionally, it’s vital to clean gutters and downspouts, check the heating system, and insulate pipes to prevent freezing. Preparing the home’s exterior, such as trimming tree branches and securing any loose items, can minimize possible damage from fierce winds and snow.

What advice does SpringSource Psychological Center offer for managing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in colder climates?

SpringSource Psychological Center suggests several strategies for managing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in colder climates. Ensuring exposure to natural daylight as much as possible, engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, staying connected with friends and family, and seeking professional support if needed can all help in alleviating the symptoms of SAD.

How can Chicago residents safely participate in outdoor activities despite icy conditions?

To safely enjoy outdoor activities in Chicago during winter, residents should dress appropriately, wearing warm, water-resistant, and slip-resistant footwear and layering clothing to stay warm and dry. Additionally, checking weather conditions and choosing activities within one’s skill level is essential. It’s crucial to exercise caution on icy surfaces, stay on well-maintained paths, and only venturing onto frozen bodies of water with proper knowledge of ice thickness and safety measures.