The Winter Blues

 Well, it’s that time again. It’s only the second week of classes and already I feel completely exhausted. Forget focusing on homework, I’m trying to get up enough energy just to get books! This is a dramatic example, but I think we all are starting to feel the post-break drag. For seniors, like me, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel: sure, we’ll graduate, but what then? The concept of “summer break” no longer is there to carry us through. It just becomes Reality. Which is even more of a reason to put on your sweats, pop in a DVD and stay under your covers all day. In fact, the number of movies I watched last weekend reached double digits!

But here’s the thing: “hermiting” doesn’t help. Believe me, I should know. (Seriously guys, more than TEN MOVIES in one weekend.) While we all react to stress differently, it’s important to also be aware of environmental factors that can affect our moods. And I don’t mean a pesky roommate, I mean literal environmental factors. I’m one of many women that has SAD–Seasonal Affective Disorder. During winter months, my vitamin D level drops, my fatigue increases, my focus decreases, and I become a lethargic lump. Once spring hits again, I’m skipping down the sidewalk in skirts and sandals, eager to  take on the day.

This is a really extreme (and slightly exaggerated) example, but SAD can dramatically affect your moods. Even if you’ve had sunny days like we have (KNOCK ON WOOD), the amount of sunlight that we receive is still significantly diminished. Your body doesn’t soak up those delicious and invisible vitamins that trigger your brain to produce neurotransmitters that will keep you alive awake alert and enthusiastic during the day, but also help you sleep at night. You don’t even need to have SAD to be affected by this; individuals with SAD are just much more susceptible to fluctuations in circadian rhythm (that thing that helps you sleep when you wanna sleep and stay awake when you wanna stay awake).

As the winter progresses, it’s important to stay aware of your energy levels or your mood changes. Women are much more susceptible to SAD, and especially in New York (Land of Very Tall Sun-Blocking Buildings), it can be difficult to get the sunlight you need. Even though you don’t feel like it, go for a walk in the park. You can keep the sweats on, but get out of your room for a while. Did you know that a walk from the Barnard gates to 110th st and back is 0.8 miles? Even just that amount of fresh air can be really refreshing to the mind and body. Take a 10 minute break from the library to walk around a little bit–your mind and body will thank you.

If you have more questions about Seasonal Affective Disorder, check out this article that my mom, a licensed professional counselor with thirty years of experience, wrote on SAD back in December. I know, shameless plug, but really it’s a great article, and nepotism never hurt anyone (ask the Kennedys!). If this is something you’re interested in learning more about, come in to the Well Woman Office, Primary Care Health Services, or Furman Counseling Center. Although there’s no “cure” for SAD, there are things to do to help alleviate your symptoms.

I’m going to leave you with a music video that’s been stuck in my head all day and perfectly describes the feeling after a bad day. We may not all have someone to rub our feet or fix us up our favorite treat (I am accepting applications for masseuses and cooks, everyone welcome to apply), it is important to take care of ourselves…especially when we don’t feel like it!

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