Editorial, Opinion

How to shine through seasonal depression | Editorial

If you are experiencing seasonal depression or any other mental health issue please reach out to Student Health Services (SHS) or talk to someone you trust. The Daily Free Press editorial board is not comprised of medical professionals.  

The vibrant yellow and red hues of autumn in New England have faded away to gutter clogging piles of crackling brown leaves. With each passing day, students don an extra layer as they scurry between classes trying their best to beat the cold. It’s in the air and it’s undeniable: Winter is coming.

Something else you may have noticed is the sun setting before you can even get out of your afternoon classes. Being a more northern city than most of the country, by the time the winter solstice — the shortest day of the year — comes around, Boston will receive under nine hours of daylight.

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

As the days get shorter and our workloads pile up in preparation for finals, succumbing to seasonal depression becomes all too easy.

Some say seasonal depression is a mere myth or an excuse for lazy people to blame their lack of motivation on something beyond their control. But it’s not a myth, and there are ways you can try resisting the call to get back in bed and bury yourself under those nice, warm blankets.

According to the New York Times, up to 10% of Americans are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, a diagnosable disease associated with symptoms of depression that reoccur only in the winter, “winter-pattern SAD,” or the summer, “summer-pattern SAD.” The former is much more common, especially in more northerly regions. SAD also happens to be more common in women than men.

Even if you don’t have an identifiable case of SAD, the winter can still leave you feeling down.

According to Healthline, you should strive to receive 10 to 30 minutes of direct sunlight a day, and potentially more depending on how melanated your skin is, which affects how easily it can absorb vitamin D.

That can be a big ask when you’re a busy college student in the dead of winter, going to school in a place where the cold makes it physically painful to exist outside. Side effects of insufficient exposure to sunlight can include: low energy, trouble concentrating and a lack of interest in activities you usually enjoy, all of which are symptoms of … depression.

So, seasonal depression is, unfortunately, quite real, whether it qualifies as SAD or not. But fear not, The Daily Free Press editorial board has compiled a list of tips and tricks for trying to stave off the winter blues.

Let loose the juice 

The direct cause of most symptoms associated with SAD or insufficient sunlight exposure in general is a vitamin D deficiency. You could easily correct this by taking vitamin D supplements, but if you prefer getting your nutrients the old fashioned way, turn no further than everyone’s favorite sugary breakfast beverage: OJ! An 8 oz. serving size of fortified orange juice contains 15% of your daily recommended dose of vitamin D.

Soak it up while you can

Every once in a while, when your extremities haven’t seen the light of day for weeks beneath your hats, gloves and scarves, nature bestows upon us an unseasonably warm and sunny day. These are unicorns, diamonds in the rough, and other tired clichés that mean to say: Don’t take this for granted. Even if you’re swamped with work, do your mental health a favor by carving time out of your schedule to bask in the glory of any day above 50 degrees.

Don’t be a loner

The past few weeks have been a blur of term papers, exam cramming and polar vortexes. The temptation to shut the blinds and turn your dorm into a depression den is strong, but you must fight it. Try your best to schedule some meals and study sessions with your friends. If you don’t have any friends, or they just all happen to be busy, go to a study lounge once and a while. Being in proximity to other human beings is better for your mental health than hibernating in your room.

Pick up new skills 

For those that are nature lovers or otherwise partake in outdoor activities for fun, winter can be even more depressing than for homebodies. Try finding an indoor hobby that can give you a sense of community and purpose when going outside becomes unbearable. If you’re struggling to stay active you could take up rock climbing — or any other number of activities — at the FitRec. You could pursue a creative passion such as art, music or writing. You may also pick up something a little more eccentric, like knitting, origami or scrapbooking, there really are limitless options. Turn winter into an opportunity to find out what you like and expand your horizons.

So, next time you hear someone claim seasonal depression isn’t real, tell them to stick it where the sun don’t shine. Remember to cut yourself some slack if you aren’t feeling 100% this winter and try implementing some of these strategies to smile through the SAD.

This Editorial was written by Opinion Co-Editor Nathan Metcalf

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