Coping with winter blues

Melissa Reise

Melissa Reise, Staff Reporter

During the winter months, it is common for students to experience heightened depression. Suddenly they find themselves sleeping excess hours a night only to wake up feeling exhausted. They lie in bed, having trouble getting themselves out from under the covers in order to maintain contact with friends and family.

This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or winter blues, which occurs due to the lack of serotonin and melatonin in one’s body. When the seasons change, melatonin tends to drop, affecting one’s mood and sleep patterns. Serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain, also begins to drop due to the lack of sunlight, triggering depression. While some might experience it during other seasons, such as summer, it is most present in the winter months.

Mayce Bacon, senior writing major, experiences both Major Depressive Disorder and Seasonal Affective Disorder. She said, “I have trouble sleeping, it’s hard to do homework. . . It’s just hard to concentrate; you have no motivation.”

This is a reality for half a million people every year, especially in colder parts of the world. Other risk factors are age, family history and if one already suffers from another type of depression.

If one finds themselves experiencing the symptoms of SAD, there are plenty of ways to cope with it. Cary Knier, director of counseling services, said, “It’s important to get outside. . . Go for walks in the middle of the day, when the sun is brightest due to the lack of Vitamin D.”

Knier also said students can visit the counseling center to use the light box they have, which will help the brain to fix the chemical imbalance, easing the depression. Even though craving carbohydrates comes about as well, it is important to maintain a diet rich in vitamins and protein.

When students start to experience these symptoms, they may think they can handle it themselves or that it will start to go away on its own. Most of the time, that is not the case. If things like exercise or eating better don’t ease the symptoms and the depression feels like it’s getting worse, Knier said it is important to talk with the chaplain, the nurse, or even one of the campus counselors.

One can also reach out to a psychiatrist, who will assess the symptoms and may prescribe an antidepressant. It’s also important to continue to talk with one’s friends and family. Bacon said, “You have to have those good relationships with people you can trust. . . because, if you don’t, it’s a struggle.”

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