Gross: S.A.D. feelings at an end

Hailey Gross

Every week for the last month, there has been a day where the temperature reaches up and scrapes the low 40s on the thermometer. Those with an optimistic eye see that, don a lighter jacket and think maybe winter is finally over. Unfortunately, for the last few weeks, those hopeful people have been sorely disappointed. Each bout of brighter weather is followed by sleet or three inches of snow on the following day.

Fortunately, winter can’t actually last forever, and as we reach April, spring has to be just around the corner. With the exception of avid skiers or snowboarders, it seems that everyone looks forward to the spring thaw. Warmer weather equates to outdoor recreation, less miserable walks across campus and a generally lightened mood that accompanies the increased intake of precious vitamin D.

Though most people appear more cheerful during warmer months, there are some who are actually chemically affected by the loss of sunlight that occurs between November and March. For most of us residing in the United States, seasons are a big part of life, and the changes that occur among them are quite substantial. Seasonal affective disorder is a problem that is (deservedly) getting more and more attention lately.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, S.A.D. is a sort of depression that takes root in people who live in regions with long winter months and short winter days. Fewer sunlit hours result not only in less vitamin D, but also in a lessened release of the chemical serotonin in the brain, which regulates moods. People affected by S.A.D. may become grumpy, tired, gain weight and otherwise generally act like a bear preparing for hibernation.

We take it for granted that spring and summer bring better moods and accept that winter is just sort of unpleasant. Most of our school-going months reside in the wintry season and there isn’t really much anyone can do about it. As a result, the overworked feeling many students experience and the drudgery of winter weather mingle and become one big downer. However, separating school stress and seasonal depression is essential.

If you feel that S.A.D. might be the reason behind your glum moods or negative thoughts, there are a few things that can help. Unfortunately, none of them are things that college students generally enjoy doing.

Waking up early is essential for those who suffer from seasonal depression. With the number of daylight hours severely limited in the summer, it’s important to rise early in order to take advantage of each shred of sunlight. This means that even on those glorious Saturday mornings when all you really want to do is sleep past noon, it might be more beneficial to get moving.

Yet another disagreeable solution is to spend more time outside. Even if it’s miserably frigid, the direct sunlight can do wonders for the release of aforementioned brain chemicals.

Perhaps the least unpleasant, but the hardest to actually do, is eat healthier. Those who suffer from S.A.D. are tragically drawn to food that is high in carbohydrates. If that describes you perfectly, try to eat more rice, pasta and fruit, and fewer donuts and bagels. The better you take care of your body, the better your mind will respond.

In addition to all these self-administered tips, there are other possible solutions. The Student Counseling Center on campus has resources for students who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, including light treatment (which literally exposes you to more light). Even if it is seasonal, S.A.D. is a form of depression. Those who feel they may have S.A.D. should not neglect to talk to a professional about it and other concerns.

Too often, we simply accept the gloominess of campus life during winter as a fact of our environment. If it is more than just classes that are getting you down, consider that your happiness and soundness of mind may be affected by the seasons. 

As in any condition, there are gradations of severity, so even if you wouldn’t categorize yourself as depressed, S.A.D. could still be an explanation.

Fortunately, whether you think you might be experiencing seasonal affective disorder or you’re just excited to pull your shorts out of storage, spring should be here any day now, meaning more sun to come. 

Most of us on campus will be just a little bit happier when the last few stubborn piles of snow have melted.

Hailey Gross is a sophomore in English from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.