Depression is no joke. Add in short days, limited exposure to sunlight, and frigid temperatures, and you may find yourself particularly SAD. Having been affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder my whole life, I’m all too familiar with how challenging it makes dating. But just because winter has turned me into a weeping fetus doesn’t mean I’m not out in these streets trying to get mine. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder is depression that relates to the changes of the seasons and, as this article points out, is not to be confused with the winter blues. SAD is a real thing, and its symptoms are even more real: low energy, depression, lack of focus, hopelessness — the whole nine. Still, since it always begins and ends at the same time of year, I’m vowing to take control and planning to be a better version of the worst version of myself by thinking ahead. Follow my lead. 

1. Check the forecast.

It’s easy to bail on plans when the weather is trash, but it’s irresistible when you have SAD begging you to stay in bed. Plan your dates for days when the sun is predicted to shine and the temperature is supposed to be mild. That way, you won’t have to take a rain check. 

2. Invest in light therapy. 

Artificial sunlight really helps mitigate the effects of SAD. There are special lights you can purchase that simulate sunlight so that the melanopsin receptors in your eyes trigger the release of sweet serotonin. Pregame your date by parking yourself in front of the lights for 30 minutes and pretending you’re anywhere else. 

3. Manage your expectations. 

Expecting too much of another human could lead to disappointment. My rule of thumb is to try and avoid all negative feelings during the winter, so I like to go into a date with a little hope and zero expectations. Maybe I’ll find someone to curl up with for the rest of the season, or maybe I’ll just eat a really bomb kale salad — I’m open to either. 

4. Go easy on the sauce.

Gin turns me into a sad old Englishman, tequila turns me into a stray rottweiler, and whiskey rots my soul into nothingness. Clearly, it’s not my choice of spirit that’s killing my spirit — it’s the booze combined with my SAD. For me, curbing my intake while on dates keeps me from oversharing: No one needs to hear about my seventh-grade bully on the first date. You have to earn that info. 

5. Be upfront.

There will come a time where you make plans and need to cancel because the weather has you ’pressed — don’t be a hero. Take time for yourself, but be honest with the other person: “Hey, it’s nothing personal, I just need some time for myself. Can I text you to reschedule?” should suffice. And if it doesn’t? They aren’t worth your time.