Students affected by seasonal depression are not alone


Paige Sheppard

While most people look upon daylight savings as a gift that offers one extra glorious hour of sleep when we all seem to need it most, it also marks the beginning of shorter, darker and colder days.
Winter is a relentlessly harsh season that can cause people to lose motivation, energy and overall happiness, leaving them among 10 million sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in America every year.
No one has to go through SAD alone. Even though warm weather and sunsets past 8:00 pm may seem like light years away, there are ways we can make the winter months a bit lighter ourselves. The symptoms of SAD don’t have to define your winter experience.
One of the best ways to combating a looming gray cloud like SAD is to acknowledge that it is serious, real and common. The most common symptoms associated with SAD are sadness, fatigue, decreased energy, weight gain, difficulty concentrating and irritability. These symptoms are all the very last things college students need added to their already stressful lives.
Since Augustana made the switch to semesters, students may be feeling even more affected by SAD because the end of the semester is much further out of sight than they may be used to. Trimesters not only offered a break by this time of year already, but they also allowed a change in course schedules.
Since we no longer have a break or a schedule change for four weeks later than usual, the monotony of classes we may or may not enjoy becomes increasingly more exhausting as the days grow shorter and colder.
The excitement of winter break and the holiday season can mask the onset of SAD, but symptoms become most noticeable in January when students return to school with not much else to look forward to but new classes with new challenges.
Besides the counseling center, which can possibly take weeks to get into, there are concrete strategies students and schools can utilize to combat SAD as winter progresses. One of the best available resources to students on campus is a group called NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) which has weekly meetings dedicated to improving student well-being and offers activities centered around communication and de-stressing.
Vice President of NAMI, Emmy Sharaan, says, “We aim to be a place for students to come if they need us.”
They are always more than willing to answer questions students may have about themselves or their friends, and they can connect students with the right resources both on and off campus.
When possible, staying active physically and socially are important factors for improving mental health; although, it is also important to acknowledge that people suffering from mental health issues often find physical and social activity to be much more difficult than usual during episodes of depression.
Attending NAMI meetings are another great resource for combating this specific struggle because students can share similar experiences and discuss their feelings in a safe environment.
Additionally, adding as much light to one’s day as possible is recommended for treating symptoms of SAD. This modification can be achieved either by utilizing the natural sunlight available in the morning or by adding extra light fixtures to comfortable spaces like bedrooms or study centers.
Lastly, including more Vitamin D into your diet can help compensate for a lack of exposure to sunlight. This vitamin is most commonly found in fatty foods foods like fish, so it can be even more difficult for vegans and vegetarians to get all the nutrients they need during this time. Healthy alternatives for plant based diets can be found in orange juice, soy milk, mushrooms, cereal, oatmeal or other fortified food products.
If you find yourself suffering from SAD this winter season, reach out to friends, try to stay active, incorporate literal light into your life, add more Vitamin D to your diet, and seek professional help if necessary.
Take time for yourself and check in on your friends. Remember that its normal to admit we aren’t okay sometimes, and know that there are always people willing to help you find yourself again.
Graphic by Jessamine Burch/Observer Staff