Ever since daylight savings time happened a few weeks ago, the harsh reality that winter is coming has truly set in. Not only does it now get dark at what feels like the middle of the afternoon, but we also have to spend an extra few minutes in the morning bundling up before walking to class. On top of the ever-persistent pandemic, cold and flu season is officially here. All of which culminates in many of us spending more time at home, indoors, and whether intentionally or unintentionally, socially isolating ourselves. With all of these changes it's no wonder that seasonal depression comes around this time of year.
Taylor Cole, a Therapist and Clinical Director at Choice Clinical Services says, “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs in the colder months when there is less daylight. The reduced hours of daylight means less Vitamin D exposure and can affect our circadian rhythms and thus our daily routine. These things then prompt a biochemical response that affects mood.”
Cole also adds that while symptoms vary from person to person, many people experience, “a lack of energy, decreased desire to engage socially or in once enjoyable activities, change in sleep or eating habits.”
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has had significant mental health affects on everyone, but college students have been hit particularly hard. One study found a 71% increase in stress and anxiety among college students due to COVID. As we head into the time of year for seasonal affective disorder, it’s important to take care of yourself. The presumed cause of seasonal affective disorder is lack of adequate sunlight during the colder months, so common treatments seek to fix this issue.
The first common treatment is getting a lamp. This may seem trivial or unimportant, but we truly do rely on light for our mental health. As college students, many of us live in overcrowded dorms or dimly-lit apartment buildings. It's important to get one that specifically emulates the sun. This LED wood desk lamp from Amazon does just that. It emits warm light and is small enough to fit on your desk or nightstand. If you’re looking for something a little cuter, this mushroom one from Urban Outfitters is adorable. I mean, how could you not love that smiling face?
Junior architecture major Samantha Willis says, “I try to create ‘natural light’ in my room as it gets darker out.” She adds, “the light aspect is something that is hardest for me in the winter.” While getting a lamp is a great substitute for sunlight, finding a space you can spend time in everyday that has natural light is a fantastic option as well.
Another common treatment for seasonal affective disorder is incorporating more vitamin D into your diet. Just like the lamp treatment, this attempts to counteract the lack of sunlight we get in the wintertime. Vitamin D is found in a variety of common and healthy foods such as orange juice, eggs and salmon. This Healthline article is a great roundup of more food options that are high in vitamin D.
While not all of us struggle with seasonal affective disorder persay, experts say it's common to feel down during the winter months. Sophomore communications major Victoria Lanner says she likes to take care of her mental health by “keeping on track with [her] daily routine” so she is able to stay motivated. Meanwhile, sophomore neuroscience major Grace Harlan says, “staying active and keeping my routine overall makes my mood happier and I avoid going into a slump.”
By whatever means you keep your spirits up during the winter months, just remember that the holiday season is right around the corner. Seasonal affective disorder is very real and affects countless people. However there are certainly brighter days ahead. So whether you choose to boost your mood by getting a lamp, sticking to a routine, or whatever else, make sure to find something that allows you to take care of yourself this time of year.