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By Jenna Avery, CLC,
Life Coach for Sensitive Souls

As someone who is highly sensitive, you’re likely to be easily disturbed by loud noises, temperature extremes, glaring lights, other people’s emotions, pressure-filled deadlines, and violent news – to name a few. But you may not be aware that you can also be affected by a lack of light, particularly during the winter months and cloudy spells. (For more information about high sensitivity, see my article, “Are You Highly Sensitive?”)

Many Sensitive Souls realize they much prefer natural daylight to the light of fluorescent office bulbs. We know that we’re miserable working in offices without windows. We’re also prone to feeling depressed and overwhelmed. There are many factors that contribute to our state of mind, so we may not be aware of seasonal effects on our well-being. For myself, it wasn’t until I lived as a nanny, in a small unit within a beautiful – but very shady – creek canyon, that I began to understand the impact of a lack of natural daylight. I found myself unmotivated and mildly to moderately depressed. Since then, I’ve come to realize that even the foggy San Francisco Bay Area summer days bring me down, along with the darker days of the winter months. I’ve learned to recognize this feeling as the “winter blues.”

What Is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects 6% of the U.S. population, according to Norman Rosenthal, the author of Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder: What It Is and How to Overcome It. The symptoms of SAD include:

  • depression
  • oversleeping
  • lethargy
  • social problems
  • anxiety
  • loss of libido
  • mood change
  • carb-craving
  • weight gain

In severe cases, serious disruptions of your personal and professional life can occur, lasting as many as five months of the year.

What is the Winter Blues?
Another 14% get the “winter blues,” which is a milder form of SAD (also called sub-syndromal SAD). For those with the milder sub-syndromal version, the symptoms include:

  • tiredness
  • lethargy
  • problems sleeping
  • trouble eating
  • lower incidence of depression and anxiety

Most people face SAD and the winter blues from fall through winter, though some of us also deal with the “June gloom” of summer fog. People who work shifts at night or in dark indoor environments may also be affected.

Treatment for SAD
The primary treatment for SAD is light therapy, which involves spending time sitting in front of a light box that emits at least 10 times the amount of light emitted by normal home or office lights. Other treatments include using a timer to activate a bedside lamp prior to waking; taking walks outside at lunchtime; taking medications and/or herbs; and utilizing psychotherapy. If you’re affected by SAD or think you may be, you’ll want to consult with your doctor to find the right specialists and treatment to support you.

Coping with the Milder Winter Blues
For those affected by the milder winter blues, consider using full-spectrum light bulbs throughout your home or office, particularly in the spaces where you sit for longer periods of time. My personal experience is that my mood will shift within five minutes of turning on my lamps. Even in a cubicle at work, a small desk lamp is the perfect place for a new bulb. The full-spectrum bulbs currently on the market create a pleasant, white light remarkably similar to incandescent bulbs. A great place to buy them online is at A note of caution, however: I’ve found that full-spectrum bulbs in my nighttime reading lamp keep me awake at night, so I use a regular incandescent bulb there instead.

Also, consider taking some time outdoors in the sunlight when you can, particularly in the morning when summer sunburn risk is lower. (I personally choose to wear sunscreen, though apparently there is some debate about it.) Taking lunchtime walks and breaks outside with intermittent glances to the sky will help to moderate your sensitivity. Some studies indicate that getting enough sunlight during the summer months can actually help you later on in the year, so be sure to get out there when you can! Yoga, creative visualization, and acupuncture may also be helpful.

Learn From the Danes
I’ve learned from my Danish friends, who cope with darkness from early afternoon to late morning in the deep of winter. Danish society is built around the concept of ‘hygge,’ which loosely translates to ‘cozy’ in English. In winter, the Danes make much of celebrating the holidays, which includes many hours creating gifts, treats, and decorations, not to mention socializing and exchanging small gifts. They light candles on rainy days (even in summer) and decorate their homes and offices with lights and colors to brighten their environments. The coziness strengthens their spirits as well.

Honor the Season
I consider the winter season a time to turn inward, and shift my focus to connecting with my self, friends, and family. I see winter as a time of deep renewal and preparation for a rebirth in the spring. Allow yourself the gift of going within, and nurturing your Sensitive Soul with beauty, light, coziness, and creativity. You’ll find your journey through the dark season of winter easier with a lighter heart and clearer spirit.

Note: This article is not meant as a substitute for professional medical advice.



Copyright 2004-2011, Jennifer Avery, All rights reserved.

Jenna Avery is a highly sensitive coach and intuitive who specializes in guiding sensitive souls to find a deep sense of inner rightness within themselves so they are inspired to step forward and shine. Jenna is a Certified Life Coach based in Berkeley, California. She can be reached at 510.984.3474. You’re invited to take her free online assessment: "Is Your Sensitivity Working For You?" on her website at

These articles may be published on your website in their entirety as long as the copyright notes and biographical information above are included in their entirety with functional hyperlinks. Please also send me an e-mail to let me know they have been published, and where. Thank you!

Jenna Avery, CLC, MCP, MLA
2721 Shattuck Avenue, #245, Berkeley, California, 94705
tel: (510) 984-3474
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© Jennifer Avery, 2002, 2011, 2012.  All Rights Reserved.