Staff Column: Be proactive about seasonal affective disorder this winter

How Can We Change Minds About Mental Health? By JAN ROSS PIEDAD • AUG 19, 2018. (Photo by SAULALBERT/FLICKR (CC BY 2.0) HTTP://BIT.LY/2BI1DYD)

As the final leaves fall from the trees and the fall season slowly transitions into a Connecticut winter, we see many smiles around campus turn into grimaces. The cold has finally arrived, and with it, finals season, flu season and the long weeks stretching out before we are finally relieved by winter break.

Many of us feel an enormous amount of stress build up around this time; there are tests to study for, classes to pick, gifts to buy, holiday plans to make and many relational pressures that cause our bodies to go into overdrive. All of this takes place while the days are getting shorter and we receive less exposure to natural light (which provides Vitamin D), throwing our bodies’ daily rhythms out of sync. We fail to get the proper nutrients and exercise that we get throughout the various other seasons of the year.

In response, we tend to eat poorly, stay in watching Netflix all day, drink more and create unrealistic expectations for the holiday season. This only pushes us further into seasonal affective disorder, or seasonal depression.

There are, however, various methods that can help you to fend off the winter blues. Take vitamins that we lack in the winter, like Vitamin D, to get your body back on track and healthy. Next, grab your favorite workout buddy and head to an exercise class! Making sure your body is getting at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise a day is crucial for boosting your overall mood.

A major contributor to this change of mood for many people is the disruption to our circadian rhythms by day light savings. Ensure that your sleep schedule is normal and consistent, because this is crucial to surviving the winter. However, don’t be afraid to binge watch “Big Mouth” every once in a while to get in a laugh, which studies show is a major reducer of depressive moods.

Most importantly, take time to focus on yourself throughout all the commotion of the holiday season and the stress it may bring along. Make sure that you dedicate at least an hour of your day to doing something that you truly enjoy, instead of spending all of your time on things you “need” to do.

Mental health is no joke. As the stress of the end of the semester dawns on us and the cold sweeps over campus, take notice of those times when you are feeling down. Use these guidelines to help overcome any effects of seasonal depression that may present themselves in your life. A grade does not define you, nor does the spectacularism of the gift you give. Make sure that you take care of yourself before you overbook yourself.


Katherine Blaine is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at katherine.blaine@uconn.edu.