Coping with seasonal depression

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Every one of us knows what it is like when the winter months come along and you are left feeling depressed. There’s barely any sunlight, the cold makes you always want to stay inside and all you can do is wish for summer to come faster.

Although seasonal affective depression (SAD) is fairly common for Canadians during the winter months, from time to time SAD is not something that easily cured by sunny days.

The most important factors that lower our mood during winter constitutes of a list of things like lack of sunlight, vitamin D, serotonin, pressure from school and other specific situation-related stress. Some of these, like the lack of vitamin D, can of course be combated by simple measures like vitamin supplements.

Other factors, like the general lack of sunlight on the northern hemisphere, are a little harder to fix. Fortunately though, there are some ingenious solutions to this problem: like the ‘Sunlight Lamp’ or light therapy lamps. These lamps use intense levels of artificial light that mimic sunlight to control things such as seasonal depression and mood swings along with improved sleeping patterns, and producing a overall feel of well being. So if you are feeling slightly out of it, or really can’t stand winter like me, these lamps seem like a good alternative to moping around thanks to the bad weather outside.

The other side of feeling depressed can be what is described as “clinical depression”. According to the University of Berkeley, “Clinical depression is a serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act”. In other words, if you feel negatively to a point where it affects the normal functioning of your daily life and activities, it is a good sign that you should get out of bed and talk to someone.

According to Alison Bertoia, the director of counselling services at Wilfrid Laurier University, about 20 per cent of the student community make use of the counselling services that the university provides. Bertoia pointed out that it is important how we define depression and that we keep in mind the fact that the degree to which depression affects each student varies quite a lot.

It is important how we define
depression and that we keep in mind
the fact that the degree to which
depression affects each student varies
quite a lot.

Bertoia advised that if you feel that something might be wrong, but are unsure of what to do, analyzing your situation in terms of what you feel and why is a good start. Next thing to do would be to talk to someone you trust, a friend, family member, relative or a counsellor. Another way to feel better is to ramp up your natural inclinations; if you are someone who loves being with friends, then do exactly that – be around people more, and if you like your alone time then carve a little more time to spend by yourself out of your day.

Although depression is widely varied between people, some telling signs can be things like a sudden change in your personality. If you are someone who loves going out and suddenly start to isolate yourself from people, accompanied by a low mental state, it could be a sign that you might need to take better care of yourself and your mind. Simple things like getting daily exercise, especially in the winter months, can prove to be quite beneficial.

Other symptoms can include mood crashes, increasing reliance on drugs/alcohol, loss of a significant person or relationship and feeling like you have fewer good choices left.

For many people though, these little activities might not be enough to help get out of a dark place. During these instances, there are many services that can provide help if needed. The counselling services at WLU which provide walk in as well as ongoing counselling for all students can be a starting place, as well as the Kitchener-Waterloo counselling services.

The thing to remember during those days when you feel low is that it is perfectly normal for people to go through phases where they just don’t feel happy. The best solution is to understand your feelings, talk it out and take that first step towards feeling better.

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