Preventing and Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Written by: Toni Ameslav, MSW, Social Worker

If you have spent at least one long, gray winter in the Pacific Northwest, you have undoubtedly heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and perhaps you’ve experienced it yourself as the days become shorter and darker and the cloud cover thickens.

SAD is a type of depression, and even some of the most hardened Northwesterners experience changes in their behavior and mood as the seasons change.

According to Psychiatry Northwest, a local behavioral health practice, “Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder that occurs when the seasons change. Those who experience SAD will experience it at the same time every year, and it can affect those who live in a particular climate like Seattle.” Reduced sunlight— especially morning light—causes chemical changes in the brain and disruptions in your body’s biological clock or circadian rhythms.

Some of the most common symptoms of SAD include:

  • Sleeping more than usual or having trouble sleeping
  • Eating more than normal (especially carbohydrates)
  • Having low energy or a lack of motivation
  • Feeling less interested in social activities
  • Experiencing feelings of depression and irritability

It’s a good idea to consult with your physician to rule out any possible physical causes of these symptoms rather than to diagnose yourself. If your doctor agrees that you are experiencing SAD based on your symptoms, here are some suggestions to help you feel more like yourself during the winter months:

  • Sit under a SAD therapy lamp within the first hour of your day. This is helpful for some people because artificial light mimics outdoor light. You can also increase your light intake if you go outside, even briefly, within two hours of getting up even if there’s low light.
  • Exercise outdoors, such as by taking a short walk.
  • Try yoga, tai chi or meditation.
  • Eat foods high in vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids, like eggs, seeds, walnuts, tofu, avocados and cold-water fish like salmon, tuna and sardines.
  • Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule.
  • Finally, even when you don’t feel like socializing, try to meet friends at the Senior Center or participate in other activities. Being social can relieve the symptoms of SAD.

We may yearn for the sun in this beautiful corner of the country during the long winter months, but even on those gray November days we can help ourselves be happier, more active and more engaged in the world around us!



Free Classes With Your Membership


Did you know that if you are a member of the Senior Center, most of our classes and activities are free? Consider becoming a member for only $50 per year.

As a member of the Senior Center of West Seattle you will receive this and many other fantastic benefits:

  • No fees for members on classes and activities (except specialty services like Foot Care, Dental Hygiene, and some special programs and events.)
  • 50% discount on the first Friday of the month at our Stop ‘N Shop thrift store
  • Our bi-monthly newsletter mailed to your home that includes news, tips, menus, calendars and a schedule of activities and events
  • Free birthday luncheon celebration
  • Discounts at local West Seattle businesses!
    • Tom’s Automotive: Senior Center members receive 10% off services costing $50 or more plus a free car care clinic
    • Falafel Salam: Members get 10% off their order
    • Daystar: Members receive a one-time credit of $2,000 to apply toward their residency fee or move-in costs
    • Capers: 10% off when members show their membership card

Becoming a Member

If you’d like to become a member of the Senior Center of West Seattle, visit our Membership page or call our Front Desk at 206-932-4044, Ext 1.

Meet Micki Cluff

Micki is a big fan of Corgis, and you can see her walking her pet around West Seattle every day.

She has lived in West Seattle since the mid 1980’s. Micki and her husband used to own a video rental business called, Mr. O’s Video. Perhaps you remember it?

A few years ago, Micki retired from her dental hygienist position, and she currently volunteers in the shop twice a week. We are very fortunate because Micki is willing to help do so many different tasks. She spends one morning up front helping customers and another in the back room sorting through incoming donations. We would be buried in piles of donations if not for volunteers like Micki!

Written by: Aylene Kandappu, Stop ‘N Shop Manager

Photo credit: Gail Ann Photography

Meet Darlene Cowman

Darlene’s warm smile, sharp mind and quick wit made her a wonderful volunteer front desk receptionist for more than three years. And, Darlene’s experience in technology helped her to be super proficient on the computer and able to assist with special projects.

These days, you will find Darlene volunteering in Margie’s Café on Thursdays. She says volunteering here has given her new friendships, and adds, “I had no idea how fun this would be and attached I would getto the people!” She says that one of the best things about moving from the front desk to Margie’s Café is that she knows so many of the names of our members and guests.

Darlene is a true Seattle native who grew up in the north end and attended Lincoln High School. After living in Montlake Terrace and Renton, she now resides in West Seattle. Darlene has family close by with a brother and sister in Bothell, and she’s an aunt and great aunt to their numerous offspring.

Darlene was lucky to work in IT for the phone company for 32 years and describes it as a great job. She enjoyed getting to change departments throughout her career and expand her knowledge regularly. She retired from the company in 2002 and went on to work in technology for Bartell Drugs for nine years.

In addition to volunteering, Darlene enjoys traveling, biking and home do-it-yourself projects. She is very handy and has made many improvements to her home by herself. Darlene is exploring the idea of moving out of state and is looking to Arizona as an option. We are hoping this doesn’t happen any time soon, as she is a true treasure to the Senior Center!

Written by: Sara Hanson-Andreu, Senior Center Volunteer Coordinator

Photo credit: Arica Sykes-Dawley, volunteer