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Mental Health

College Student Guide to Seasonal Depression

Seasonal depression is very common but not talked about as much as it should be. According to Familydoctor.org, seasonal depression is a type of depression that is triggered by the seasons of the year. Many students, and people in general deal with this condition and it goes unnoticed and swept under the rug. Studies show that young women have an increased risk of seasonal depression. Below, I’m sharing a few tips on how to cope with this illness and to assure you all that SEASONAL DEPRESSION IS REAL. 

Coming from Los Angeles to Atlanta in fall 2016, I didn’t know the effects the weather change would have on my emotional being. I found that every winter and beginning of spring I would slip into depression. I rarely left my room, dragged myself to go to classes and complete my homework, disdained the sight of light, cried often, slept longer hours than usual, and barely kept in contact with my family and friends.  At the time, I didn’t know why I felt so terrible.  In December of 2018, my grades began to drop and that’s when I decided to seek help. I soon learned I had Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

The common misconception that many people have is that to have depression you had to already have been sad from internal or external problems such as the loss of a loved one, missed career opportunities, a breakup, etc. But depression is simply an imbalance in the brain. According to PSYCOM, “The reduction in sunlight in winter can throw your biological clock out of whack and reduce levels of serotonin (a brain chemical that regulates your mood) and melatonin (a chemical which regulates sleep and mood).”  

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After realizing my lack of motivation was taking a toll on my life as a whole, I’d finally had enough and decided to make the changes necessary to fall out of this rut. These are the three things that saved me from Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

1. Step out of your comfort zone and do things you normally wouldn’t do!

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I know sometimes it’s scary to step into new experiences and not know the outcome but sometimes it necessary to do. This might spark a passion you didn’t even know you had! It will also add a boost of confidence within yourself and your abilities. One day, I was scrolling on Instagram and came across a flyer for a pageant at my university. It sparked my interest but I was too scared to sign up. A day later my boyfriend and I had broken up and I slipped into an even worse depression. I turned into an unfamiliar person. Two days later I applied for the pageant, not even thinking I would make it to the interview. After I was accepted, I kept doubting myself and wondering if I should even continue with the process, but I did because I knew I needed a change in my life. I also wanted to distract my mind from the horrible breakup I went through. For two months, I was on a routinely scheduled and practiced three days a week for four hours. The best part of the experience was that I was able to form a relationship with 10 wonderful women who I now call my sisters. The hard work I put into the pageant relieved the outside stress and depression I once had. In order to do my best in the pageant, I knew that I had to put all of my focus into practicing and making sure my grades were on point. If it were not for the pageant, I wouldn’t be the happy and hardworking woman I am today. Hopefully, my story will inspire someone to try an unfamiliar experience to distract your mind from the depression. 

2. Talk to your family and friends

When you fall into a depressive state, the last thing you want to do is talk about your feelings, but that’s the best thing to do to relieve stress. Sarah Townsend, an assistant professor at the USC Marshall School of Business, said, “it is the specific interaction with a person who genuinely understands your emotion and response, and ideally is also experiencing it at the same time, that will provide measurable relief from stress.” Believe it or not, your loved ones have seen the change in your once upbeat personality and are wondering what’s going on. If you express your feelings to your loved ones, they will understand and try to help in any way possible. This illness is not easy to deal with but you don’t have to go through this alone.

3. Remember that you’re in control of your own happiness

It’s hard to remain happy when there’s a literal chemical imbalance in your brain. How might you do so you ask? Think of all the blessings you’ve come across thus far: waking up every morning, the free will to do whatever you please, family and friends, education, etc. These are all amazing things to be happy about! If you allow depression to control your life, you will always live wondering “what if?” and you will be trapped in a hole that’s gonna take some serious digging to get out of. Do things that fulfill you and make you happy. Don’t let depression control your life. 

There are many other tips that can pull you out of this rut but these were a few that have helped me. Depression is hard to understand and not everyone will get it. It is an uncontrollable feeling that can take over one’s life. It used to take over my life as the seasons changed but I won’t allow it anymore. If you or someone you love ever disconnects from their surroundings seek help from a professional.  

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