Weather got you down?
Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a common issue that can negatively affect things like your performance in school as well as your health in general.
SAD is not a switch like, say, the flu. You’re not healthy one minute and bedridden the next. Rather, depression tends to be more of an insidious condition that can set in slowly, creeping into our thoughts and moods and dragging us down without our even being aware of what’s happening.
It’s often unpredictable in other ways, as well. For instance, just because you haven’t dealt with it before doesn’t mean you’re automatically in the clear. If you come from a sunny location like Miami or Phoenix, you may have never had to grapple with SAD in the same way as those coming from a more drab climate (although it is worth noting that "reversed" SAD, which affects certain in the warmer months, is a very real thing).
However, if you find yourself attending a school in, say, Buffalo, NY, you might suddenly find that the incessant cloudy weather and dreary gray slush all over the ground can start to get to you after a while.
Looking for the signs
Make no mistake, SAD is prevalent among college students as much as any other demographic.
It’s easy to already be on edge with things like papers, projects, and other deadlines often factoring heavily into a student’s workload during the bleak winter months. This can create the perfect storm, leading students to slide right into a greater, all-encompassing depression that can seriously cripple their ability to learn, get motivated, and function in general. Here are some of the typical “red flag” symptoms that can warn that depression is starting to get the upper hand, particularly while you’re at school:
- Either excessive sleeping or lack thereof
- Skipping classes or lowered grades
- No desire to socialize
- A desire to avoid people entirely
If you start to see a few of these symptoms creeping into your daily routine, it may be time to do something about the matter.
Addressing the issue
A classic way to address depression symptoms is through aromatherapy. Lavender essential oil has proven to be particularly effective in helping to improve mental health. The natural depression antidote can help clean the air, alleviate pain and allergies, and improve your sleep quality. All you need to do is get a cheap diffuser and a bottle of lavender essential oil, and you’re good to go.
Light things up
The effects of light on our moods cannot be overstated, with long hours spent in dull, cloudy weather often factoring directly into seasonal depression. Sometimes the solution can simply be to move your desk closer to a window. If that isn’t an option, another solution that requires a bit more setup and investment is to get a light box in order to help simulate the daytime.
You can also look into changing the color coordination of your home or dorm. This can involve either repainting the walls with warm colors (if you can), which can evoke feelings of happiness and enthusiasm, or using analogous colors, which are naturally harmonious. Whatever the answer, though, the simple act of getting more time in the light and bringing more friendly colors into your living space can be a great way to brighten up your day.
Stay away from social media
It seems like every day we get a new report about the negative effects of social media on people's lives. It should come as no surprise that excessive time spent on social media during the winter season can feed those depressing, anxious, and insecure thoughts.
According to an infographic by Rutgers, while there are many pros to using social media wisely, some of the cons can include an unintentional feeling of loneliness, envy, worthlessness, exclusion, and sadness as we see the apparent (often artificial) bliss of friends or loved ones in their highly curated profiles. Comparing these idealized versions of reality to our own day-to-day lives can be a truly dispiriting experience.
Avoid cabin fever
Staying inside (which can be a natural consequence of an obsession with social media) can also feed into that sense of loneliness and general depression.
The cloistered feeling of a long period spent indoors, especially in an area with bad lighting, like a dorm or bedroom, can be the perfect incubator for SAD symptoms to thrive. Get up and go outside, breathe the fresh air, and get some sunshine when it’s available.
Exercise your mind and body
The idea of physical exercise is often brought up as a way to fight depression — and with good reason. However, you also want to take the time to keep your mind in shape as well.
Keeping your thoughts busy with healthy hobbies and other engaging mental activities can be an excellent way to keep your mind sharp and free of depression. From crossword puzzles and knitting, to journalling and playing board games, there are many different ways to keep your mind moving.
Socialize (in real life)
While social media may be dangerous to someone struggling with seasonal depression, actual human interaction can be the perfect balm to any lonely, troubled mind. When possible, try to make the effort to get out and socialize.
Conversations are excellent ways to keep your brain on point, and the natural fact that most social interactions take place outside of your residence ensures that you’re also getting time outside and exercise thrown into the mix as well.
Remember: You're not immune (and that's ok!)
It’s easy to point to the energy and passion of youth as reasons to shrug off the possibility of seasonal depression. But the truth is, depression is a very real threat, even to the young. As of a 2016 study, one out of every 30 children in the U.S. suffers from depression, while twice that number deal with anxiety, putting the number of those affected into the millions.
What’s more: once people reach young adulthood, those numbers tend to skyrocket. Roughly one in four college students suffer from mental illnesses, much of which is directly related to depression. Suicide, a far-too-common, tragic result of depression, is the third leading cause of death among college students who don't know what resources are available to them.
These are serious issues that shouldn’t be left unaddressed. It’s important to understand the threat that seasonal depression can have on your academic career and lifestyle. If you can diagnose the symptoms early on, it can be much easier to treat the issue before it gets out of hand.
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