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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Rutgers chapter.

Trigger Warning: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Depression, Anxiety, Suicide

As winter approaches, many Americans are starting to feel the effects of seasonal changes. During the winter months, the sudden shift in weather and sunlight can cause feelings of depression and anxiety. It can also result in weight loss or gain, fatigue, problems sleeping, and more. For those experiencing these symptoms, you are not alone. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to the change in seasons, mostly occurring in fall and winter. Although the specific cause of SAD is unknown, research has found that a disruption in serotonin and melatonin levels is caused by the change in sunlight. This disruption can throw off your sleeping pattern and the brain’s neurotransmitters, causing feelings of anxiety and depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder should not be dismissed as “cold-weather blues.” It is important to take the necessary steps to mitigate these feelings by reaching out for help when needed. It is important to know when help is necessary, as feelings of hopelessness and depression can result in suicidal thoughts. For those experiencing SAD, or know someone who is, here are some helpful tips to improve overall mood this winter season.

Wake Up Early

During the fall and winter seasons, the sun begins to descend earlier in the day, becoming completely dark before 5:30 pm. This is a stark contrast to the sun-filled days we experience in the summer and spring seasons. This sudden decrease in sunlight can have a tremendous impact on your mood, causing many to feel gloomy and depressed. It can also throw off your sleep schedule, resulting in feelings of fatigue and exhaustion. Keeping a regular sleep schedule can help mitigate Seasonal Affective Disorder and avoid the consequences of over-or under-sleeping. This may include waking up early in order to maximize the amount of sunlight you receive. Taking some time to look outside and enjoy the sunlight can have a positive impact on your mental health. Sunlight has been proven to boost serotonin levels in the brain, elevating your overall mood and wellness. For more information on the effects of seasonal changes and what you can do to help, click the link below. 

“How Daylight Saving Affects Your Life”

Practice Self-Care

Practicing self-care is one of the most important aspects of improving your overall mental health. The winter season can be extremely stressful due to changes in the weather, school, and work. The recent rise in Covid-19 cases and quarantine restrictions can also lead to an increase in anxiety and depression, affecting overall mental and physical health. Now more than ever is the time to take care of yourself and listen to what your mind and body need. Taking time to relax after a particularly stressful day can help you wind down and reduce the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder. This may include a spa-day filled with face masks, candles, a bath, and low-fi music. This may also include ordering from your favorite restaurant and watching trashy reality TV shows. Whatever your ideal day looks like, treat yourself to some R and R; you deserve it!

Be Social

Due to Covid-19 restrictions and the recent drop in temperatures, social interaction seems unattainable. Outdoor dining and activities have been made virtually impossible due to the freezing temperatures in New Jersey. Despite these setbacks, there are many ways to remain social. A quick facetime call to a friend or family member can not only boost your mood but possibly make their day as well. It is important to check in with your loved ones as they may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder as well. Talking to a mental health professional is also a great way to mitigate the effects of SAD. These professionals can help talk through your anxieties, as well as offer advice. These social interactions are a great way to improve your mood and alleviate stress. Be sure to reach out and stay social this winter season!

“Finding Therapy”

Stay Active

Staying active during the fall and winter seasons can have amazing effects on mental health, keeping both the mind and body preoccupied. This may include daily exercise, yoga, or stretching in order to get the blood pumping. Exercise helps create endorphins in the brain, effectively fighting against stress. Practicing mindful techniques like meditation and breathing exercises can also help alleviate symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Other benefits include an increase in flexibility, stamina, and strength. Mental activity can also improve mood and productivity, resulting in an increase in attention, memory, and problem-solving. This may include reading a book, writing a short story, or redecorating your bedroom. However you decide to spend your winter days, remember to stay physically and mentally healthy. For more information on the effects of physical and mental activity, click the links below.

“Exercise and Stress: Get Moving To Manage Stress”

“Effects of Mental Activity on Health”

Seasonal Affective Disorder affects approximately 5% of America’s population. Depending on the region, anywhere between 0-10% of people experience SAD at any given time. It is important to understand that you are not alone. SAD is normal and valid, affecting many people across America, with more prevalence in states farther from the equator. As winter approaches in New Jersey, now more than ever is the time to take care of your mind and body. Waking up early, practicing self-care, being social, and staying active can help mitigate the effects of SAD. Take the necessary steps to improve your mental health, and know when to reach out for help. For more information on Seasonal Affective Disorder, check out the links below!

Mayo Clinic 

Mental Health America

National Institute of Mental Health


If you or a loved one is experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide;

Call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Text: (HELLO to 741741)

Visit: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Alexa Ziler

Rutgers '22

Alexa Ziler is a Junior at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. She is pursuing a degree in psychology with a minor in education and English. Alexa hopes to one day become an elementary school teacher and is applying for her masters at the Graduate School of Education. She is passionate about reading poetry and the classics, as well as writing her own stories.
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Sam F

Rutgers '21