Young Muslim woman is looking worried through the window.
Young Muslim woman is looking worried through the window. (iStock/Johnce)

It’s Beginning to Smell Like Seasonal Affective Disorder — Quick! Here’s How to Cope

I have always felt happy when fall arrives. The smell of the leaves falling off the trees, that distinctive change in the air that means summer is over, the joy for me of school starting, the coolness of the weather, the winds changing. I love fall and it is my favorite season. However, with the joy of the change in season, I often look forward to stress and trouble as well. That is because I (and my mother and my son) have severe seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.  

The seasonal affective disorder is an emotional (affective) problem (disorder) caused by the shortening of the days and the change in the angle of the sun due to the natural shift in seasons (seasonal). It is primarily triggered by the physical changes in the brain due to the changes in sunlight. Not just the length of the days shortening, but in fact, the angle of the sun to the earth changes the spectrum of the sunlight and causes it to be less effective for normal brain functions.  

Not everyone is aware of this, but like plants, we derive vital nutrients from the sun. Our brains and bodies do not function properly without chemicals that we get as a result of exposure to sunlight. These chemicals in particular help us deal with stress, sleep, and mood regulation.

For those of us with SAD, this year is particularly challenging. We all know that the catastrophic and tragic violence in the genocidal attacks on Palestine is most difficult for our Palestinian brothers and sisters, and it is also true that, collectively, we as the Muslim community are struggling under the weight of our rage, fear, powerlessness, and trauma. Particularly for colonized peoples, the impact of watching this genocide is severe.  

How do you know if you have SAD?

A Black woman wearing a hijab puts her hands on her head because she feels rather unwell.
A Black woman wearing a hijab puts her hands on her head because she feels rather unwell. (iStock/Prostock-Studio)

Basically, you will have had a pattern of experiencing increased sadness, poor concentration, depression, difficulty motivating, challenges with tracking and having conversations, brain fog, difficulty getting out of bed and sleeping, or sleeping too much, disruptions in appetite, either being very hungry, or losing your appetite, and these changes will predictably occur around the end of October and continue until about February.  

For many of us, the increased stress of the holidays of the Gregorian calendar can also contribute, such as in the U.S., the pressure to be together with family for Thanksgiving, or the pressure of the New Year. While these holidays are not Islamic, many of us have historically been impacted by the images and pressure to be connected and have felt the challenges of isolation more acutely, regardless of our religious affiliations.

Dua to help with SAD

A Muslim woman raising her hands and uttering dua.
A Muslim woman raising her hands and uttering dua. (iStock/.Shock)

There are some really good dua to help with SAD. One that I love is the dua to make things easy. Part of SAD is that everything feels like an effort, even forming a coherent thought.

This dua is great:

O Allah, there is no ease other than what You make easy. So please make this easy for me.

Allaahumma laa sahla ‘illaa maa ja’altahu sahlan wa ‘Anta taj’alul-hazna ‘ithaa shi’ta sahlan.

اللّهُـمَّ لا سَـهْلَ إِلاّ ما جَعَلـتَهُ سَهـلاً، وَأَنْتَ تَجْـعَلُ الْحَـزَنَ إِذا شِـئْتَ سَهـْلاً

Another wonderful dua can encourage us both to continue to serve Allah in our lives and with our families while staying steadfast through the trial of SAD. It also can help to guide us to read more Quran, as well as ask for the aid of Allah (SWT) in our distress.

Here’s what to say:

O Allah, I am your servant, the son of your servant, the son of your maidservant. My forelock is in your hand, your command concerning me prevails, and your decision concerning me is just. I call upon you by every one of the beautiful names of which you have described yourself, or which you have revealed in your Book, or you have taught to any of your creatures, or which you have chosen to keep in the knowledge of the unseen with you, to make the Quran the delight of my heart, the light of my chest, and to remove my sadness and dispel my anxiety.

Allahumma inni ‘abduka, ibnu ‘abdika, ibnu amatika. 1 Naasiyati biyadika, maadhin fiyya hukumuka, ‘adlun fiyya qadha’uka. Asaluka bi kulli ismin huwa laka, sammaita bihi nafsaka, aw an-zaltahu fi kitabika, aw ‘allamtahu ahadan min khalqika, awista’tharta bihi fi ‘ilmil-ghaibi ‘indaka an taj’alal-Qur’ana Rabbi’a qalbi, wa noora sadri, wa jalaa’a huzni, wa dhahaba hammi.

اللّهُـمَّ إِنِّي عَبْـدُكَ ابْنُ عَبْـدِكَ ابْنُ أَمَتِـكَ نَاصِيَتِي بِيَـدِكَ، مَاضٍ فِيَّ حُكْمُكَ، عَدْلٌ فِيَّ قَضَاؤكَ أَسْأَلُـكَ بِكُلِّ اسْمٍ هُوَ لَكَ سَمَّـيْتَ بِهِ نَفْسَكَ أِوْ أَنْزَلْتَـهُ فِي كِتَابِكَ، أَوْ عَلَّمْـتَهُ أَحَداً مِنْ خَلْقِـكَ أَوِ اسْتَـأْثَرْتَ بِهِ فِي عِلْمِ الغَيْـبِ عِنْـدَكَ أَنْ تَجْـعَلَ القُرْآنَ رَبِيـعَ قَلْبِـي، وَنورَ صَـدْرِي وجَلَاءَ حُـزْنِي وذَهَابَ هَمِّـي

A wonderful dua that can help with the troubles of SAD is a dua that also helps with debt.

So if you are struggling with both, and you want to memorize one of these, this is the one:

O Allah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts, and from being overpowered by men.

Allahumma inni a’udhu bika minal-hammi wal-Ḥuzni wal-’ajazi wal-kasli wal-bukhli wal-jubni wa ḍala’id-dayni wa ghalabatir-rijal.

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ الْهَمِّ وَالْحُزْنِ وَالْعَجْزِ وَالْكَسَلِ وَالْبُخْلِ وَالْجُبْنِ وَضَلَعِ الدَّيْنِ وَغَلَبَةِ الرِّجَالِ

A final dua that is good is a dua to firm our hearts on the religion. It’s really short so it’s nice for that. Also, in SAD we run the risk of missing prayers, or losing our momentum in our ibadah, so making sure that we remain steadfast and continue to be consistent is important. Also, continuing on in our daily ibadah makes us closer to Allah and the healing and light that Allah brings. It is the most repeated dua of our Messenger (SAW) according to the hadith.

Here is the hadith:

I said to Umm Salamah: ‘O Mother of the Believers! What was the supplication that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said most frequently when he was with you?” She said: ‘The supplication he said most frequently was: “O Changer of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your religion (Ya Muqallibal-qulub, thabbit qalbi `ala dinik).’” She said: ‘So I said: “O Messenger of Allah, why do you supplicate so frequently: ‘O Changer of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your religion.’ He said: ‘O Umm Salamah! Verily, there is no human being except that his heart is between Two Fingers of the Fingers of Allah, so whomsoever He wills He makes steadfast, and whomever He wills He causes to deviate.’”2

Of course, we all have our standard duas and things we like to rely on in our struggles. I, for sure, hope that this article will remind me because I really need these! And I will try to say them for you as well, and I hope you try to say them for me, and all the Muslim Girl Army in return when you are talking to our Lord.

Other ways to treat SAD?

A hijabi woman closes her eyes and folds her hands together as she's trying to cope with seasonal affective depression.
A hijabi woman closes her eyes and folds her hands together as she’s trying to cope with depression. (iStock/Liubomyr Vorona)

We are seeing therapeutic resources for the Muslim community to deal with the stress of the current war in Palestine and the weight of the work people are doing to resist. There are resources for free therapy, like Ruh, and healing circles for support through organizations like Maristan and Khalil Center in the States. Being in the U.S., I have limited knowledge of resources elsewhere, but I am sure that they exist. Therapy can definitely help reduce stress for people who suffer from SAD. 

So yes, therapy is a helpful tool. There are also other easier, more accessible resources that can aid in overcoming the impact of SAD. One that I have found to be incredibly effective is light therapy. I have a “Happy Light” on my desk that I turn on when I get to work, and it always helps me. In fact, my SAD got noticeably better after I began using it.

Another option is antidepressants. It is important to consider if medication is a solution for what you or your loved ones are going through. Sometimes mental health is more than we can fix. Like a severe infection, you don’t just pray you get the right medication. Please consider if this would help you or a loved one and seek medical advice from a doctor.

Other treatments for SAD include taking time to walk in nature and get sunlight, or to lie in the sun on the grass somewhere and just take in sunlight through sunbathing.  

In this trying time, where we are all struggling to maintain our lives and equilibrium, I encourage you, and I am telling myself as well, please take the time to take care of yourself so that you can continue to work and show up for your family, friends, and loved ones.  

May Allah strengthen us all, and help us be steadfast in our religion in these terrible times grant the Palestinian people tawfiq in this life and the next and bless them with victory over the Zionist occupation.

With love for the sake of Allah.

Disclaimer: This article is in no way meant to substitute for medical or mental health advice from a trained and educated mental health professional. Muslim Girl encourages those who need help to seek it and encourages the use of resources such as therapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and trained mental health professionals. You should never try to manage your mental health alone. You are not alone, and there is no shame in seeking professional help. Muslim Girl also does not recommend self-diagnosis; again, please seek the help of a professional. If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center, text MHA to 741741, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.

  1. Note: Women and girls should substitute the female forms in the first line and say, “Allahuma inni amitiki wa binta abdika wa binta amitika.” ↩︎
  2. “Jami` at-Tirmidhi,” no. 3522, graded as “good” by Darussalam. ↩︎

Sarah is a social worker and certified alcohol and drug counselor in the San Francisco Bay Area, the traditional land of the Ohlone people. She likes to paint, drum, sing, and spend quality time with her family and God.