Celina Timmerman-Girl In Winter Hat

5 Ways to Help Ease the Effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winter can be fun for a bit, the holidays adding some brightness to a rather bleak time of year. But once the holiday lights come down, you may start to really take note of just how cold and quiet it is outside. It's no coincidence that the abbreviation for Seasonal Affective Disorder is S.A.D., because those affected by it tend to feel perpetual sadness and exhaustion in the winter months. Suddenly, it becomes harder to get motivated, and, for college students, that can be especially detrimental. If this sounds like you, don’t get discouraged just yet. There are many ways to combat S.A.D, and do your best to stay happy and motivated this winter. 

According to Mayo Clinic, the decreased amount of sunlight we experience during the winter can throw off our circadian rhythm. It can also affect the production of serotonin, a chemical in our brain that affects moods, which can lead to depression. These facts prove that S.A.D is so much more than just “winter blues”; our bodies have a physiological reaction to winter. But you don’t have to be held hostage by those involuntary reactions; there are steps you can take to try to take control of your body and fight S.A.D. 

Related: Just Winter Wallowing – Or More? The Scoop on Seasonal Affective Disorder
  1. 1. Get in your exercise

    two women working out

    This might sound a little obvious, but exercise leads to a release in endorphins, which results in a natural surge of energy. According to Mayo Clinic, one of the main effects of S.A.D is a decrease in physical activity and increased laziness. Getting out there and putting your body to work, whether that’s going all the way to the gym or just going for a walk or run, can help overcome the effects of S.A.D and keep energy levels high! You can even grab your roommates and do a workout in your room.

  2. 2.  Keep the lights on

    Bedroom Bulb Interior Decoration Lamp

    This may seem weird, but keeping the lights on can help you to keep your energy up. S.A.D can throw off your production of melatonin, the hormone that can make you sleepy. Oxford Medicine says that Melatonin surges as a response to darkness, and since it’s typically dark during winter days, surrounding yourself with light can combat the production of melatonin, keeping you awake throughout the day. Keep the lights on in your dorm or find an area of the library that is well lit so you can stay alert. Some people with more severe cases of S.A.D might find light therapy beneficial. 

  3. 3. Eat healthy

    breakfast brunch toast granola food

    According to The Cleveland Clinic, unbalanced serotonin levels can cause people to gravitate toward unhealthy, sugary foods. Eating a well-balanced diet will keep energy levels high by fueling your body with healthy foods. In fact, specific foods are actually proven to help S.A.D by providing specific nutrients that will increase energy. Check out these examples from Food Network for more information. 

    Eating healthy when you're confined to a dining hall can be daunting, but you can utilize all of the dining hall offerings by filling your plate with items that incorporate all five food groups. Use the salad bar to get your vegetables in, grab a protein (if you’re vegetarian then tofu or beans are a good substitute), add in whatever grain is being offered, a dairy option, and finish it off with some fruit for dessert. 

  4. 4.  Plan ahead

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    In the thick of winter, it can be difficult to imagine a warm and sunny campus again. Give yourself something to look forward to by planning a fun day trip, getting tickets to a concert or signing yourself up for a spring event on campus. If you create an incentive by planning something to look forward to, it can motivate you to do everything you can to get through the rest of the winter, so you can thrive in the spring.

  5. 5.  Spend time around others

    two friends laughing

    Keeping yourself occupied is one way to try to distract yourself from the depressing weather outside, but surrounding yourself with people you love can be even better. Good people can be the light that you crave in the winter time. Keep yourself busy by putting your friends and family at the center of your life. Place yourself in situations where you can laugh and feel comfortable, so you can remember just how great life can be even in darkness. 

Of course, it’s important to address that S.A.D is a legitamite mental disorder that can be really severe and terrifying for some people. Mental health should be a priority for everyone, and while these tips can help make your life a little brighter, seeking professional help is always beneficial if your S.A.D. is inhibiting your quality of life. Stay warm and happy this winter–you got this!