Tips for Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that affects 4%-6%  of the population usually during winter months due to the lack of sunlight. As the days get shorter, and colder, many people start to experience symptoms including fatigue, a desire to sleep more, mood changes, and a change in appetite. Below are a set of tips for anyone experiencing a mild form of SAD or even just feeling their “winter blues” getting to them. It’s important to keep in mind, that each person copes differently with SAD so these are not a cure, but good suggestions to start.

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1. Make a list of "your people"

Make a handwritten list of the people that you can shoot a text at 2am and get a reply. The people who will reel you back in if you feel yourself spiraling. Or even the people that are pure energy. The people who will get your mind away from itself for a moment. Don't forget to contact those people. Try to make the extra effort to find this handwritten list and reach out to them. It could be for a vent session, fun getaway or something in between. Whatever you need, you have a person for on that list. By writing it down, it is a concrete reminder of the support system around you.

2. Write every day

Write for yourself only: what you're feeling, what moods are looming over you, and what happened that day. Then you have a possibility of tracking some of your triggers. What sends you deeper into the into your symptoms? What helps you bring it back? By having a physical record of how you change each day, you’re more likely to be aware of what your own personal tips can be. It also can be a place to vent without worrying what any other person has to say on the matter. It’s a judgment-free zone to spill your guts.

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3. Take a short walk

Although going outside in the winter may seem counterintuitive, it’s a way to soak in as much sunlight as possible. Wrap yourself up in your warmest socks, tug on your boots, grab a scarf, and pull a hat over your hair. It's forcing you to take a breather from all your stressors. You won't be trapped in a room for hours on end. Feel your feet make contact with the pavement. Feel the cool air hit your face. Remind yourself that you're grounded. It’s also a chance to get some exercise, which is another way to cope with SAD. Connecting with the Earth and nature, even in the cold, can calm you.  

4. Write down daily positivity

Every day try to pick up a journal (or notebook) before you go to bed and write about the funny, wacky, memorable things that transpired throughout the day. It only needs to be a sentence or two. You can even bullet random thoughts down if that works easier. But this way, while you lay your head down for bed, the last thing your mind was fixated on was the positivity that pulsed through the day.  Don't think it has to be some big gesture that happened. It can be the small stuff: the dining hall served your favorite meal or class got out ten minutes early. Simples things, that you may forget otherwise, can serve as a positive reminder.

5. Unplug

Take some time every day and drop the laptop, and the phone, and the constant connection to everyone. Do something simple to be present with yourself. Whatever self-care looks like to you, do that. Become in tune with your mind and body, and not all that chaos around you. So buy a book for pleasure and get lost in it for a little. Or watch one episode of a television show to unwind. Or stand in the shower and feel each drop beat against your skin. Something to pause on all the static out there.

 

If you or someone you know at UConn is struggling with mental illness, know that you can seek help here

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