How to escape the winter blues

Elizabeth Braaten

It’s that time of year again. Department stores are blasting Christmas music, every other lawn in suburbia is home to a dazzling light display and the temperature is dropping — and with it, your motivation and mood. 

For many college students, the holiday season marks the welcome end of the fall semester and the opportunity to spend time with the people they love. However, the arrival of winter also means the return of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or “episodes of depression (that) occur during the same season each year.” While there are not many known cures for SAD, ensuring that you are aware of the symptoms will enable you to practice self-care methods that will ease these winter blues and make your holidays happier. 

Symptoms of the disorder include lower energy levels, weight gain and disinterest in the activities you usually enjoy. The lack of energy brought on by the disorder can also hinder your ability to concentrate and be invested in school. Those who are affected report sleeping over two hours more in the winter months than they do in the summer. 

While anyone can be affected by this disorder, it hits college students the hardest. SAD is estimated to affect about 4 to 6 percent of the U.S. population. However, in a study published in the Journal of American College Health, researchers found that college students experience SAD at an astonishing 13.2 percent. 

Ensuring that you have access to light each day is crucial, as SAD is brought on by the shorter, darker days that accompany cold weather. You should also exercise at least three times a week to relieve stress and anxiety. Going out to exercise and getting vitamin D can help regulate your mood, and aiming for seven to nine hours of rest per night will ensure that you are not oversleeping. 

Finally, if you feel that individual care is not enough, don’t hesitate to contact UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center, which offers walk-in assessments and referrals Monday through Friday and individual counseling appointments at $10 each. 

Above all, understand that low levels of energy, a loss for creativity and a lack of willingness to be productive are not uncommon trends during the holiday season, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Tackle your workload in manageable chunks, check in on your friends and be sure to do small things each day to take care of yourself — even if it’s as simple as turning on the light. 

Braaten is a international relations and global studies junior from Conroe.