Winter, for so many people, is a beautiful season coated by fluffy snow and dazzling ice. This season means catching snowflakes in our hands and on our tongues, hoping endlessly that classes will be canceled. It means hot, delicious drinks that warm the body as we sip them. It means racing down a mountain on a snowboard or a pair of skis.
But for millions of others, winter means the beginning of a long, emotionally taxing three months.
Seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.) is a type of depression that mainly affects individuals at specific times of the year, particularly in the winter. “Psychology Today” reports that around 10 million Americans suffer from this disorder, also known as the “winter blues.” They estimate that another 10 to 20 percent of people have mild S.A.D.
For years, I didn’t know that I could be dealing with a mild form of S.A.D or that it was even a real disorder. I would blame my emotions on myself, the weather or the fact that I was spending so much time indoors. These factors definitely play a role in the disorder, but knowing the name and the trigger of depressive episodes makes it so much easier to overcome them.
In my own experience, with a little help from some research, here are some tips when fighting seasonal sadness:
Enjoy the great outdoors
Not many people want to walk around in the chilling winter air. However, staying inside the same dorm room and seeing the same bedroom walls for nearly three months doesn’t help with a disorder that is specifically linked to the weather and outdoors. When I’m feeling confined or stir crazy, I usually bundle up and go for a walk on campus. It also helps to focus on the positive aspects of winter, and Rider has a big one — this campus is beautiful, especially when it snows.
It’s also good to take advantage of this string of warm, sunny days, since the cold and bleakness are directly linked to this disorder.
Soak up some sun
A main trigger of S.A.D. is yearning for sunlight. This fact has been reported by “Psychology Today,” the Mayo Clinic, the National Institute of Mental Health and more. I can also attest to this personally.
All of the above sources recommend some form of light therapy. Going outside will certainly fulfill that, but there are also other options. Open the blinds in your dorm window or the curtains on your windows at home and let some natural sunlight in. You should also allow that natural light to illuminate your room, instead of bright, artificial lights.
Don’t suffer in silence
When falling into depressive moods, it’s often easy to want to be completely alone or to think that your feelings might be an inconvenience. However, in my experience, the best way to cope with feelings is to express them. I often write stories or poems about what I’m going through. Other people I know paint or play music. If you want to read, websites like themighty.com have many stories about people reflecting on many different types of disabilities and disorders, including S.A.D.
And more than anything, talk to your friends, family or whatever support system you lean on. Make an appointment at Rider’s counseling center. Make sure you don’t hide what you’re feeling, as talking about it often relieves much of the weight that depression will heave upon your shoulders.
If none of this helps or you believe you may have full, severe S.A.D. or any other form of depression, do not be afraid to make an appointment with a doctor. A formal diagnosis means more formal treatment, which often leads to real results.
Especially as college students, we should try our best to take care of our mental health. Life should not stop for three months, especially when a change of perspective and some treatment can make those three months absolutely beautiful.
Counseling services through Rider can be found in Lawrenceville at the Zoerner House and can be reached at 609-896-5157. On the Princeton campus, it is room six in Williamson Hall and can be called at 609-921-7100 extension 8275. NDMDA Depression Hotline Support Group can also be reached at 800-826-3632.
Senior journalism major
Printed in the 3/1/17 issue.