|Fighting the winter blues|
|Written by The Vidette Editorial Board|
|Thursday, 24 January 2013 13:18|
We always hear about people having “cabin fever” during the winter months. There’s usually that span of a few days or weeks where we’re either on break away from work and school, or where it’s just too cold to go outside. We’ll feel restless, bored and anxious to get outside of our homes and do something enjoyable.
Besides cabin fever and the typical cold weather blues, winter can cause us to develop a more serious condition, which many of us may be unaware that we are suffering from.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is described on the Mayo Clinic website as “a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year … Symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.”
It’s very common for the cold and dreary winter months to leave us feeling unenergetic and lifeless. However, those with SAD will have more extensive symptoms such as fatigue, increased appetite, weight gain, reduced interest in activities, increased sleep, difficulty concentrating and irritability.
The cause of SAD is believed to derive from the shorter days and lack of sunlight in the winter months, which affects out bodies. According to Mayo Clinic, sunlight stimulates our body’s production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which controls our moods. Our serotonin levels are often lowered in the winter months because of the lack of sunlight. Darkness has the opposite affect on our body and causes us to produce melatonin, which triggers sleepiness.
If you feel like you’re experiencing the symptoms of SAD, don’t be afraid to get help. SAD is easily treatable and more common than you think.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, one in five Americans has SAD, of which 75 percent are women.
Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Dr. Mark Frye suggests seeking professional help “if your symptoms begin to affect your ability to perform at work or take a toll on your personal relationships. Seeking help is particularly important if you begin to feel hopeless or have thoughts of self-harm.”
This Editorial Board would like to advise students to monitor themselves if they have these symptoms and seek help at Student Health Services if needed. Although the symptoms of SAD can go away on their own as warm weather returns, ignoring the signs of SAD can cause a more serious form of depression to develop.
In addition to seeking professional help, there are also numerous ways we can improve our mood and motivation throughout the winter months.
The best way to combat SAD is to take walks outside in the daytime when it is sunny, which most of us do daily to get to class. While the cold temperatures may be unpleasant, natural light is essential for our bodies.
Other ways include exercising regularly, having social get-togethers with friends and family members, eating a healthy diet, watching your favorite movie, managing stress and avoiding the desire to sleep for long periods of time.
Taking vitamins, specifically a vitamin D supplement, may help reduce the symptoms of SAD. Vitamin D, which is naturally produced by sunlight, is believed to improve a person’s mood and lessen feelings of depression. Students should consult their doctor before taking vitamin supplements and with any questions about SAD.