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Beating the Winter Blahs

Will winter ever end? As the cold weather continues, it becomes more and more common: students get bogged down, discouraged, confined, and even depressed. This may cause students to sleep and eat more than normal, and they might get down about life in general.

Cabin fever can affect all of us, and it's natural. But according to physicians, winter can bring on a seasonal form of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a form of depression that, according to media sources, affects roughly 15 million Americans. SAD is mainly due to a lack of sunlight. The main symptoms include oversleeping, overeating, weight gain, and withdrawal from society. These are very similar to the symptoms caused by depression. 

If the winter blues have gotten you down, you might try these helpful suggestions:

  • Light is the best medicine for SAD. Get out into the sun around noontime and enjoy the sun's rays as much as you can. Walk to class on sunny days. Try to sit near the windows in your classrooms. You can get healthy UV rays from little daily light boxes that doctors have found in studies to be very effective for people with SAD. Doctors say that even 30 minutes of sunlight a day can perk up your spirits. As for planning a spring break vacation, you might want to consider taking that trip to Cancun after all!
  • Exercise and meditation are good. Exercising first thing in the morning is beneficial for people with seasonal depression. Exercise gets your body going and active, giving you more energy. Doctors who work with SAD patients also find that meditation of some form allows the body's muscles to tense up and then relax.
  • Express your feelings. This allows negative emotions to be released and dealt with in a constructive way. So how do you express your feelings constructively when you have cabin fever or SAD that's leading to negative thoughts on life? The best way is to find a few people that you trust and can be open with. Tell them about your fearful thoughts or lack of interest in life. If they suggest that you should seek some counseling, then that's a good indicator that you should seek help from someone who works in a professional capacity on the campus. There are lots of services on campus, including professional staff in your residence hall (such as your residence hall director) and the Counseling Center staff who can give you some advice on how to cope with your feelings.

Remember not to take your negative feelings out on other people, so be careful when venting to friends or confronting your floor mates about issues. Realize that these feelings will not last forever. Warmer weather will be here before you know it!