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This Sunday, November 7th, our days will get shorter. Less light will fill our skies, the wind will pick up, and for many of us, our positivity will fall. Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a specific type of depression that occurs in the fall/winter; its symptoms tend to last four to five months. 

Common symptoms of SAD as reported by the National Institute of Mental Health include: 

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Having problems with sleep
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having low energy
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Symptoms specific to winter-pattern SAD include: oversleeping, overeating, weight gain, and social withdrawal. Please understand that you do not have to experience all of these symptoms to be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Mental health is different for everyone. 

According to data from Maya Clinic, over 3 million cases of SAD are reported in the US each year. You are not alone. 

Professional treatments for SAD include antidepressant medication, light therapy, psychotherapy, and vitamin D (NIMH).

I have also interviewed a handful of students who suffer from SAD and asked them what their number one tip would be for someone else suffering. Some of their answers were more straightforward and manageable, like exercising and opening the blinds. It’s important to take small steps, especially when depressive symptoms begin to overwhelm you.

“Exercise.” – Stella, 19

“Open your blinds on sunny days.” – Mary, 19

“Keep yourself surrounded by the people who make you feel loved. Don’t let it stop you from making plans and going out. Let yourself enjoy life.” – Rachel, 19

“I mean that’s tough; there’s no easy answer. It took a lot of building up my mentality to hear those thoughts. Instead of letting it affect me and being depressed about it, I have to hear them from a different perspective and tell myself to be tough. Simply put, manage it by observing how you feel, analyze your thoughts, and be rational. Rise above the darkness that’s consuming you.”  -Matthew, 21

“Remember that it’s not all in your head. It’s not something you just have to deal with. There are solutions– vitamin D, therapy, exercise.” – Morgan, 20

“Just keep going. Follow your day-to-day routine as best you can. Check-in with yourself, be honest with your loved ones, and do not be afraid to reach out for help.” – Emily, 19

Important contacts:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255

UIUC Counseling Center: 217-333-3704

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741

Kate Bushman

Illinois '24

I'm a current sophmore at the Univeristy of Illinois pursuing a B.S. in dietetics and a double minor in child health and well-being and psychology. I'm a member of Alpha Gamma Delta Sigma Chapter and serve on the AGD Sigma executive council. Additionally, I am a member of UNICEF@UIUC and on the fundraising committee. I have a strong passion for service, education, nutrition and mental wellness, and chick-lit.
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