Do you ever find yourself relating too much to Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” in December? Does the thought of the month January gives you shivers, or is it the consistently cold February that makes you want to sleep in just a little bit longer?
Despite what your parents might tell you, these feelings aren’t just because of finals or the sharp reality that hits you in the face after Winter Break (although those two should be in a category all their own). Seasonal Affective Disorder, coincidentally acronymed SAD, is a real and diagnosable disorder that affects at least 5 percent of Americans every year, four out of the five affected being women (Mental Health America). Even though this winter has been considerably milder than previous years – not to mention our southern location as an advantage to fighting the cold – weather in many stages can still affect mental health and well-being. As college students, we are particularly susceptible to SAD if our busy schedules and constant indoor time take us away from sunlight and fresh air.
To help combat SAD, Nurse Necie has a few tips for students to stay healthy and happy during the winter months
- Try to get a little sun when it’s available. On warm winter days sit outside in short sleeves for about 20 minutes, while avoiding sunburns, of course.
- Stay well by washing hands often, not sharing drinks, getting plenty of rest, and drinking adequate amounts of water.
- Make sure to incorporate exercise into your weekly routine, such as walking or hiking as the weather allows.
- Set short and long term goals for the semester and celebrate when goals are met.
- Take time for yourself by doing things you enjoy. When the semester gets busy, you might have to include “me time” on your calendar.
Here are some other health tips that might be useful (thanks to Reader’s Digest)
- Take a warm, relaxing shower. It may not be the most environmentally efficient, but a little splurge every now and then won’t do much harm. Just make sure to lather up on the lotion once you’re done because your skin will definitely need some moisturizing.
- Change your lights. This could range from changing the lightbulbs in your lamps to ones that simulate natural light to adding string lights to brighten up your room. Pink Himalayan salt lamps are another smart investment. In giving off a negative ion frequency, salt lamps help purify and cleanse the surrounding air, which can increase happiness and all around mood.
- Maintain a regular fitness routine. Hendrix has some great exercise classes that will not only get you in shape but will get you out of your room. Try “Mindfulness Relaxation” or “Totally Toned” with Tiffeny Crow. There are also courses in rock climbing, yoga, Pilates, Zumba and more. Most classes are open to having visitors/non-enrollees show up for sessions, just check with the instructor beforehand.
- Have your Vitamin D levels checked. Vitamin D levels tend to drop when your skin is less exposed to sunlight, and if you are experiencing effects of SAD you might benefit from supplements. A blood test can determine if your levels are adequate or deficient.
- Work near a window. And yes, there are only so many windows in the library and in your classrooms, but this idea is perhaps best implemented in your own room. Facing a window can do wonders to your focus and happiness. Even opening your blinds will brighten up your room and energize you to keep studying.
- Add color to your life. This technique is actually called Chromotherapy has been used for years as a means of enhancing well-being. Wearing bright colored sweaters, or perhaps putting up a few more posters in your room could be a simple fix to those dull winter moods.
As college students, being aware of mental health is always important. In the stretch of time between the end of November and the beginning of March it is vital to stay especially aware of your own state of well-being. Often people joke about the absurdity of any such “Seasonal Affective Disorder” but anyone who has stayed in the library all day studying for finals knows how a lack of natural light and inordinate amount of caffeine can affect well-being. Paired with a grueling Chem final or a 15 page paper, Seasonal Affective Disorder can pile on more stress and anxiety than any student needs.
So go take a walk, soak in the bathtub for a while, call your mom and tell her you love her. Pet a dog every once in a while, say “Hi” to Miss Martha in the Caf, and don’t let SAD keep you from being the happy, spontaneous, driven, innovative, and wonderful Hendrix student you are!
*If you do find yourself battling depression in the colder months and home remedies don’t seem to help, talk to your doctor (or anyone in Hendrix Counseling Services) about looking into other forms of treatment