By Emily Hanson || Layout Assistant
Being on the east coast means experiencing the highest and lowest temperatures, which has its benefits. Many activities become available only in the winter, like ice skating and skiing, but by the time they are available, students rarely have time to enjoy them. Suddenly, all our responsibilities take more time.
As a student, I’ve found this phenomenon seems to be particularly true of schoolwork. I’ve always been a hot weather person, but when the second half of the school year hits, it’s not only more arduous to complete my assignments, but also harder to even leave my bed in the morning, to bring myself to eat, and to interact with my friends. Even the smallest of responsibilities somehow require the strongest of efforts to overcome.
On a typical weeknight for me, my day will contain classes from 8:30am until 4:30pm. Minimal breaks in between classes are spent on completing homework and the sun sets at around 5pm in the winter, leaving me with minimal daylight hours. All at once I’m much more tired and I lose motivation to finish my work and spend time with my friends when their classes finish. By the time the weekend comes, I want to catch up on sleep and I spend over half the day in bed without enjoying myself. I find that I’ve lost the desire to participate in activities like ice skating or eating at restaurants and I generally struggle concentrating. It feels like weeks and weeks of classes are left and every single day is the same.
Not quite affectionately this quite common feeling has been dubbed “seasonal depression,” mainly in the manner that depression symptoms, such as lack of motivation, seem to worsen with the weather. Although “seasonal depression” is colloquial, the term “seasonal affective disorder,” or SAD, is used for a type of depression that displays symptoms seasonally. Importantly, SAD is not particular to winter; SAD may affect people in the summer while they feel fine in the winter.
So, yes, the weather is colder, but I wanted to figure out what exactly causes SAD in the brain. It turns out the brain responds to shortened daylight hours. According to kidshealth.org, daylight impacts serotonin and melatonin, two chemicals in the brain that regulate a person’s mood, sleep, and energy. Scientifically, the brain creates more melatonin, the “sleep” chemical, when it’s dark, and more serotonin, the “mood” chemical, with exposure to sunlight. The body’s circadian rhythm is disrupted, thus any subsequent sleep is not quite restful, and it can throw off an entire week.
The cycle of SAD impacts not only mental health, but it also can pull grades down. Ideally, the college should promote healthy ways to combat SAD. If F&M addressed how common SAD can be in students, the beginning of the spring semester would be much easier to navigate.
A few things I have found that lessen SAD symptoms are keeping a set routine, sleeping well, eating healthier, and exercising. This can adjust the serotonin and melatonin in your brain properly and keep your motivation as high as possible. Of course, it helps to spend as much time as possible outdoors and to not stay in one spot for too long. The best possible method to combat SAD, though, is finding a counselor or therapist to help you navigate and understand your feelings. Remember, SAD is a type of depression, and it is significant. As long as we support each other and monitor our mental health as much as possible, we’ll make it to the spring!
First-year Emily Hanson is a layout assistant. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.