The fall brings many festive occasions: Halloween is coming, the sun is setting earlier, Christmas isn’t far from reach and the seasons are changing. Unfortunately for many college students, this seemingly wonderful time of year is not so wonderful for their seasonal depression.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), better known as seasonal depression, tends to impact people most during the change from summer to fall and winter. It is something that affects a variety of people but may be affecting people more than usual this year due to quarantine and coronavirus.
“It is the experience of feeling depressed during winter months due to the reduction of sunlight,” the Director of the University Counseling Center, Kurt Kumler said. “This is a pretty common experience due to being indoors with less daylight for those of us who live closer to the Earth’s poles.”
The effects of seasonal depression can vary from person to person but usually consist of loss of motivation, not wanting to leave one’s bed, distancing yourself from others and just an overall feeling of constant exhaustion. Being a student with seasonal depression means the effects impact school, work, and social lives.
“Seasonal depression makes me feel hopeless, lost, and confused,” junior marketing and sales major Jaelyn Mccourt said. “I just don’t have the energy to do anything, I start overthinking everything, I question every choice I’ve made in life. It affects my social life and work the most since there are days I have absolutely no motivation to get out of bed.”
Seasonal depression is something that is not applicable everywhere either. It impacts university students heavily in Pittsburgh because of the city’s harsh winters. In states where the weather tends to be warmer, people do not experience seasonal depression as much.
“I was born and raised in Los Angeles so seasonal depression wasn’t something I experienced until I came to college,” Lauren Santia, a junior public relations and advertising major, said.. “Around late November, I start to experience it. I tend to distance myself from others, and I just overall feel lonely and sad, even if I know I have a support system of people.”
While seasonal depression can be a burden, there are things people can do to relieve some of its effects. Getting up and moving around can make a huge difference in how one feels.
“It’s usually helpful to make a concerted effort to get regular exercise and find ways to enjoy time outdoors,” Kumler said. “Attending to our basic psychological needs is important for any kind of depressed feelings. This includes eating well, getting good sleep and connecting with people we love to help manage moods.”
These are some basic recommendations from a psychologist, but there are more that have been discovered by college students suffering. Things as small as accomplishing a small task or even thinking happy thoughts.
“Move your bed near your window, open up your blinds to the window and make your bed,” Mccourt said. “It sounds silly, but making your bed means you already accomplished something and starts you off with a clean slate. Some other things that help me are keeping a journal to sort out your thoughts and to watch an old cartoon that you watched as a kid to remember happy times.”
Experts say that part of tackling seasonal depression is understanding that everyone is different. Something that works for a person may not help someone else, but those who have seasonal depression say that it’s all about discovering yourself and improving mental health. They recommend people keep trying until they find what works best for them.
“I know everyone copes differently but for me talking about how I’m feeling always helps me,” Santia said. “Pushing yourself to keep busy helps a lot too. Whether that’s taking a walk, going to get a cup of coffee, or even just learning a new TikTok dance, it can help to take things off your mind. Also, go pet a dog, dogs are great support systems, especially for depression.”