How to deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder
A lot of us feel somewhat moodier in the winter. You know, it's raining; it's cold... not unlike most other times of the year in the UK. However, the hours are also shorter in the winter months as well, which is actually proven to have an effect on some of us when it comes to mental health.
According to the NHS, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression which occurs, as you might have guessed, seasonally. I’m not a doctor, but the NHS website is pretty handy, and so I’ll break it down. The scientists reckon that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which affects all kinds of happy hormones and your body clock. This leads to symptoms of depression, such as low self-esteem, lack of self-worth, lethargy, sleeplessness and anxiety. Basically, it’s not a whole lot of fun, and it can be super serious.
When you're at University, you're often already out of your comfort zone. You're away from family and the friends you've had for your entire life. Plus, there's a new city to get to grips with, alongside coursework, exams and all kinds of other stresses. When you add in an actual physical reason why you might feel low into the mix, it's no surprise that so many of us do.
I was born on a day that it snowed. Family always referred to me as some kind of snow princess and I used to go skiing all the time. Snow? I love it. Winter... not so much. It's so dreary and miserable and nothing looks that good. You go outside, especially in a city, and the buildings are just depressing. If you're already going through something tough, everything just compounds, and I'm not surprised that it's so common to feel the “winter blues”.
If you think the reason you're feeling a little down might be more serious than just having a bad day, you can go and get help! All campuses and cities we have residences in will have GPs as well as counselling services that you can turn to. There are a range of treatments and therapies these days, such as talking therapies, lifestyle changes, medication where required and even light therapy. Don’t suffer on your own, or rely on self-diagnosis either.
Aside from the medical treatments, remember to take it easy as well. Surround yourself with positive influences and as cliché as it sounds, count your blessings and have good people around you.
Of course, sometimes these things are sadly more long term, but there’s no shame in mental health issues, like any other illness. No matter how severe things get, you can always gain support. For most people though, SAD starts to clear up around late February.
Bring on the summer!