Not just Winter blues: A guide to coping with SAD in Edinburgh

With the shorter days looming ahead of us, it’s very common to experience bouts of seasonal depression

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), often referred to as seasonal depression, is far more common than one may think, with both those with existing mental health struggles and those who don’t, experiencing a feeling of depression or low mood at the beginning of the colder months. Studies have suggested that SAD often peaks the first week of November following the turning backwards of the clocks, this year on October 29th. 

It’s important to look out for both yourself and your friends as these months get closer to us, especially here in Edinburgh where we experience a, sometimes unbearable, level of coldness. The symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder and depression are very similar, including a sad or low mood, feeling fatigued, a loss of interest, difficulty or even excessive sleeping, an increased appetite leading to rapid weight gain, and thoughts of suicide and hopelessness. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder can, however, occur in both the winter and the summer. Summer SAD, or when seasonal depression symptoms only occur in the months of summer, can perhaps be triggered by the humidity and heat instead of the cold weather experienced in the winter. Scientists are studying whether the rising temperatures caused by climate change may harm mental health. Following a 2018 study of mood expressed on social media, it was found that depressive language actually increased with temperature.

This condition is much worse than “the winter blues” and can sometimes be debilitating and detrimental to one’s lifestyle. If your symptoms last for longer than the winter season, or are onesie by this change in the seasons, then it’s a good idea to reach out to a professional for help and guidance. You’re not alone and don’t deserve to suffer in silence. 

So, how can you tackle it?


Perhaps the most obvious, and the easiest way to get out and appreciate the beautiful world we live in. Exercise can be an effective antidepressant to boost endorphins and clear the mind. There are plenty of walking routes around Edinburgh to explore, including the hike up Arthur’s Seat, the many paths that wind in and around the Meadows, and the central spot of Calton Hill, especially if you’re able to catch the sunset at the top with a warm cup of hot chocolate!

A walk in the Meadows…

Try out something new

You don’t even need to go anywhere for this one; whether it’s painting or drawing, or picking up a new instrument, a small hobby can help get over that feeling of “losing your identity” that you may be feeling due to seasonal depression. Arts and crafts are the perfect way to spend a cosy evening when it’s pouring down with rain outside. Set up some candles, put on your favourite music or podcast, and get creative!

Appreciating the little things

Meet up with friends

The winter can stop us from doing a lot of the things we do in summer, like spending time at the beach or just generally being outdoors for the whole day, so it’s essential to try and socialise whenever you can. There are plenty of coffee shops to try out in Edinburgh where you can hide away from the rain in and enjoy a warm drink and slice of cake! Some of my favourites are Kilimanjaro in Newington, Red Box Coffee in Marchmont, and Project Coffee in Bruntsfield, all serving some of the finest coffee in Edinburgh. 

Cheeky Uplands Roast Coffee x

Pick up a book

Reading isn’t for everyone, but sometimes a good book can completely change your day. Some studies have shown that reading as little as six minutes a day can improve your quality of sleep, reduce stress and sharpen mental acuity. It’s also a fairly inexpensive hobby if you pick up a good deal in one of the many charity shops in Edinburgh! Whether you enjoy romance, crime, or fantasy, there’s a novel out there for everyone. If you’re looking for inspiration on what to read, check out TikTok, Pinterest or Instagram, and I’m sure you’ll find something that takes your fancy. 

Get into a good routine

Having a good routine can significantly impact your mood for the better! Make sure you’re getting a good night’s sleep, although in university, this is rare, and don’t fill your schedule with absolutely everything. We can’t do everything sometimes, so pick and choose what you want to do. 

Go for a cold water swim

There’s intriguing evidence that suggests swimming in cold water may have antidepressant effects. Even if you’re in for just a few minutes, it’s a great activity to do for your health and well-being. Hop on a bus down to Portobello; the 12, 19, 26 or 45 would do the job, and embrace the cold arctic air that will greet you. You could treat yourself to a warm hot chocolate after in one of the cafes on the promenade to congratulate yourself for completing something only the bravest Edinburgh students have achieved. And don’t forget the layers!

Portobello <3

Try watching more Autumn shows and movies

There’s nothing better than getting cosy under a blanket and watching your favourite films, and aren’t we lucky that there are so many to choose from? Gilmore Girls, Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, Love Actually, the list could go on and on. Forget those deadlines for an evening; order pizza and have a movie night with your friends!

Get festive!

Okay, so it still might be slightly too early for Christmas, but it definitely isn’t far away now. The Edinburgh Christmas Markets officially open on the 17th November this year, with an endless selection of festive things to get you in the spirit for the most wonderful time of the year. You could do some Christmas baking or have a flat evening out on the ice rink located on George Street! Christmas is full of joy and the season of giving; the perfect time to appreciate the people around you and tell them how much they mean to you. 

I want eggnog NOW

Take a break

You are the most important person, and if it’s getting a bit too much, the best thing to do is go home. Spend time with your family and your home friends, take a walk around your hometown and look at how far you’ve come. 

If you feel as though you need to reach out to someone, the Student Counselling service is a good place to start.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story, please speak to someone or contact Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. You can also contact Anxiety UK on 03444 775 774, Mind on 0300 123 3393, Calm (Campaign against living miserably) on 0800 58 58 58, and Student Minds online here. You matter.

Related articles recommended by this writer: