The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department

Amherst Wire

The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department

Amherst Wire

The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department

Amherst Wire

How to deal with seasonal depression


by Lauren Woods

Do you ever wake up in the morning feeling more exhausted than when you went to bed? Do you cringe at the thought of having to go out to a party? Is your irritability so high you can’t even look at your roommate without wanting to yell at her for no reason? Maybe you just don’t feel like you right now and you don’t know why. Well, it’s that time of year again when Bean boots aren’t the only thing in style; so is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Also referred to as “winter depression” and “winter blues,” seasonal depression tends to hit people early in the winter and last as long as early summer. Symptoms of SAD include feelings of hopelessness, decrease in social behavior, change in appetite, drop in energy levels, and difficulty concentrating. While the exact cause of this condition is still unknown, evidence suggests SAD is caused by a lack of sunlight. Researchers believe the insufficient levels of natural light affect our body’s internal clock that serves as a regulator for mood, sleep and hormones.

I know what you’re thinking. “Whoa. Me? Depressed? No way,” and maybe you’re right. However, you should consider that your change in behavior could be what 1.5 million Americans suffer through each year–the unshakable sadness of SAD. While this condition will make life harder, don’t let it bring you down. Below are a few easy ways to combat the unforgiving symptoms:

1. Find the light

It is imperative you are aware of your environment and how much sunlight you are being exposed to every day. If you’re stuck in classes all day, choose seats next to the window and deal with all the squinting you’ll have to do. On your way to class, bundle up and take the long way so you can spend more time outside in the sun.

Disclaimer: Avoid the wind tunnel we call “Du Bois,” no amount of sunlight is worth that frostbite.

2. Lean on your friends

SAD can make social interaction about as enjoyable as being a Starbucks barista on a Monday morning, but you have to force yourself to mingle. Pause the “One Tree Hill” binge you’ve been on, turn the lights on and pull yourself out of bed. You’ll feel better by surrounding yourself with people who love you and lift you up.

3. Run through it

Too often we find ourselves saying, “Oh I don’t have time for the treadmill today,” or “I just don’t feel like making the trek across campus to the gym.” It is at that moment you are feeding your depression and refusing your body the stimulation it needs. Exercising isn’t just for getting that “bikini bod” to losing that arm jiggle–it is unbelievably beneficial for your mental health and overall well-being. Exercising helps release endorphins in your brain, which releases the good thoughts from captivity. So, put your running shoes on and get out there.

4. Seek professional help

Many people believe if they need to seek professional help for their mental stability, they are too weak to take care of themselves, when actually the opposite is true. Realizing you have an issue you can’t work out on your own and finding someone to help you through it is one of the hardest and the strongest things you can do.

5. Remember to love yourself

I’m not saying go all Kayne West and start calling yourself “the Michael Jordan of music,” but don’t forget to remember how awesome you are. You are probably feeling pretty low and hopeless. Don’t. You are amazing, and you are going through something that is only going to make you stronger. With each week of winter you get through, reward yourself. Maybe it’s a new pair of mittens, or a cup of hot chocolate. Just don’t forget to help yourself through this.

Remember, this is temporary pain. You aren’t a “grandma” for staying in on a Friday night despite what your friends say. You aren’t crazy for feeling like you might have a breakdown the second you wake up in the morning. You are suffering from a condition that is going to make the already cold New England winter feel even colder. SAD is going to freeze you to the core, but just like those 1.5 million other sufferers you are strong enough to get through this. The sun will shine again…and shoot those serotonin levels right back up.

Lauren Woods can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @lauuwoods.

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