Not just the winter blues — how seasonal affective disorder could be affecting you

Do you dread this time of year?

The time when the majority of the day is spent in darkness, homework becomes endless and holiday cheer has been extinguished. When you constantly feel sluggish, unmotivated and generally not like yourself. 

If so, you may experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). 

SAD, most commonly referred to as Seasonal Depression, is a type of depression that corresponds with seasonal change, usually the shift from summer to winter. 

Symptoms of SAD can serve as minor difficulties in our everyday routine, such as over sleeping, low energy and a change in appetite. However, symptoms can also be more serious, for instance and include anxiety, depression and feelings of despair. 

It is extremely common for university students to experience SAD, especially during the winter term. 

Yet more often than not, students dismiss symptoms of SAD as the ‘winter blues.’ In reality, SAD should not be overlooked and needs to be taken seriously. 

It is important for students to fully understand what causes SAD and how they can combat it in order to maintain their physical and mental health. 

Jan Hall PhD explores SAD within college students in her article with TimelyMD. “SAD has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brian prompted by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in winter.” 

Additionally, students tend to spend more time inside alone during winter months due to cold temperatures and amount of coursework. 

Here are four simple steps you can take to reduce the effects of SAD. 

  1. Prioritize your mental health and physical well being. Designate time off from schoolwork, eat healthy foods, get regular sleep and participate in some form of physical activity. 
  1. Try studying someplace outside of where you sleep. Visit a study spot on campus, a cafe or public library. 
  1. Make sure to go outside. Jan Hall suggests that twenty minutes to an hour of light exposure each day can positively affect the symptoms of SAD. 
  1. Use campus resources. Visit Laurier’s Wellness Center and talk with a counsellor. Book an appointment at the Athletic Center or join a club that interests you. 

Talking with friends, family and classmates will also help

If the ‘winter blues’ seem to be hitting you especially hard this year, remember you are not alone. Around 15 per cent of Canadians will experience SAD in their lifetime. 

It can be easy to succumb to the effects of this. Don’t wait until spring in order to feel like yourself again; take the necessary steps in combating SAD and reach out when needed.

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