Have you been feeling unusually down lately? Have you fallen behind alongside the time change? Did the cold weather this week suddenly make you feel blue? You’re not alone.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the technical term for depression caused by the change in seasons. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the cause of SAD is a decline in exposure to sunlight. The lack of sunlight exposure creates a shift in the body’s biological clock that is responsible for regulating mood, sleep and hormones. The lack of sunlight can also prompt the body to increase production in melatonin, a chemical that induces sleep. The unusually high production rate of melatonin leads to sluggishness.
The symptoms of the disorder include feelings of sadness, anxiety, extreme fatigue, insomnia, withdrawal from social activities and an inability to concentrate. Additionally, students may experience intense craving of carbohydrates, leading either to weight gain or to a sudden loss of appetite that can result in weight loss. Although not all students who are affected negatively by the change in seasons have SAD, many experience at least one of the symptoms.
The question then becomes: how do students avoid seasonal sadness? Luckily, Washington and Lee has a variety of on-campus resources that can help, and there are many useful at-home remedies as well.
First, if you believe you may be experiencing SAD and not just feeling temporarily down with the change of the seasons, consider seeing a health professional to explore possible therapy options.
If you are simply feeling stressed out by the onset of winter, consider trying any of the following. Friends and teammates are excellent support systems to fall back on. Try working with your peers to set aside time to take a break, eat dinner together or have a movie night to help alleviate some of the stress or sadness you may be experiencing.
You can also take breaks by yourself to reduce stress. Try taking a warm shower, exercising, calling home or spending a Friday night in catching up on sleep.
If you are overwhelmed by a busy schedule, try making a plan. Before bed, create a carefully drawn-out schedule for the following day. Remember to include rewards or breaks to motivate you to stay on task.
If you feel that your problem may require outside assistance, don’t hesitate to take advantage of Washington and Lee’s resources. Washington and Lee provides a free counseling service to all students. Peer counselors are always there to help and can often relate to what you are experiencing. Talking about how you are feeling and brainstorming ways to deal with those feelings with a professional is an excellent way to cope.
Lastly, don’t forget the positives of winter. Cross your fingers and pray for snow!