From cool weather, pumpkin patches, haunted houses, black Friday shopping, seasonal Starbucks drinks, warm sweaters, and autumn leaves, there's a million reasons to love the fall/winter months from October to December.
However, what’s not talked about are the less glamorous attributes of the season: reduced sunlight, unbearable cold, and shorter days. While the cold may not be unbearable in Mississippi, it can certainly be uncomfortable and a contrast from our usual humid heat.
These seasonal changes can also influence brain chemistry, often causing low energy, loss of appetite, irregular sleeping patterns (i.e. too much or too little sleep), difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal, and general loss of interest for life, according to the Mayo Clinic.
During this time of year, these feelings can be attributed to symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression.
As a college student, this time of year is always particularly hard. Once daylight savings time comes to an end and the walk back from my afternoon classes in the cold darkness begins, the thought of doing homework, writing essays, or anything besides eating dinner and going to bed seems harrowing.
This lack of afternoon productivity causes an influx of due dates and deadlines that seem impossible to meet with so few hours in the day.
People cope with seasonal depression in many different ways, and some people may not even know it affects them. For me, it took a long time to realize because I thought it was a general dislike of the colder weather and pumpkin spice lattes.
In order to know if this is something that impacts you, you need to be cognizant of your mind, body, and spirit. During this season, I began noticing that my internal thoughts were becoming increasingly negative and self-deprecating, and my body would become sluggish after a certain time each day.
In years past, these impacts, along with finals season, would tear down my self-esteem and leave me in a state of misery that would take the entirety of winter break to pull myself out.
This year, however, I knew I needed to be proactive in combating these symptoms. I ordered a high-quality water bottle to stay hydrated, made a strict bedtime to ensure adequate sleep, and made an appointment to see a counselor at my university counseling center.
Living with seasonal depression is hard, especially if you’re uneducated about its implications, but it is manageable.
Here are some tips to combat seasonal depression:
- Spend time outdoors
- Even on overcast days, sunlight is beneficial. Take a walk, go for a run, or partake in any other outdoor activity.
- Get in some exercise
- Physical activity has been shown to have a positive impact on mood. Establish a regular exercise routine by going to the gym independently or joining a fitness class for the group experience.
- Eat nutritiously:
- Seasonal depression can cause increased cravings for carbs, but it's important to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet.
- Mind-Body techniques
- Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
- Social support
- It’s important to stay connected with friends and family, as social interactions and support can be crucial in managing depressive symptoms. Try joining clubs, support groups, or just engaging in activities that bring you joy and/or human connection.
- Mental Health Support
- There’s no shame in asking for help. Reach out to healthcare facilities and talk to someone about your feelings.
- In some cases, healthcare professionals may prescribe antidepressants to manage symptoms of SAD. Consult a healthcare provider to see if medication is an option for you.
- Establish routines
- Having consistency in sleep and meal times, despite time or outside appearance has been instrumental in my well-being this season. A daily routine that provides structure and stability is a necessity if you are struggling with seasonal depression.
In 2019, the University of Texas Medical Branch said 10 million people are affected by SAD each year, so if you related to anything in this blog, you are not alone, and it does get better.
Maleigh Crespo is a junior English writing major, journalism minor on the education track at Loyola University New Orleans. She has been writing for as long as she can remember and couldn't see herself doing anything else. When she’s not writing, she can be found blasting Taylor Swift, online shopping, or feeding the squirrels in Audubon Park. You can reach her at email@example.com.