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3 Easy Ways College Students Can Handle Seasonal Affective Disorder

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A college student experiencing seasonal affective disorder

For many people, the year 2020 has been an emotionally taxing year. Anxiety about the pandemic, the climate, the economy, and politics are high for everyone, and with the month of November comes the newest addition: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). 

SAD is a form of depression that usually occurs around the same time every year.

Its symptoms include lack of energy, moodiness, hopelessness, insomnia, and a loss of interest in things you usually enjoy. For many college students SAD hits especially hard.

If you go to school in a place with harsh winters you can begin to feel trapped as the snow slows everything down and the cold makes it hard to leave the house.

If you live in a dorm or don’t have access to a car the monotony of grey skies and the same scenery can begin to feel inescapable. 

These are 3 tips on how to handle SAD as a college student during Covid-19:

#1: Natural light is key

Most college apartments are cramped. With school being online, students are spending more time than ever inside.

This is why exposing yourself to natural light every day is so important in boosting your mood.

Sunlight is good for mental health and can even increase your serotonin levels in your brain. Try to do your homework in front of a sunny window or keep your blinds open during the day.

Taking short walks during the day can also help.

While it may be hard to get out the door in the cold, a short walk around the block can dramatically improve your mood, a lot of this is due to the light exposure.

Put on a mask and walk with a friend or listen to some music to make it more enjoyable.

Some people have even invested in light therapy boxes. These are lamps that produce a similar light to the sun.

Turning it on for a few minutes every morning has been proven to produce similar effects to soaking in the real thing.

A great alternative for the days in the winter when it feels like you haven’t seen the sun in years. 

A man with a backpack and blue jacket walking next to a building with snow on the ground.

#2: Do some exercise or light movement 

This one is pretty self-explanatory for people who experience regular depression year-round. Moving your body is great for mental health.

If you’re in college this can be tricky. Gyms are likely not open and you probably don’t have the resources or space for a home gym. 

Any type of movement can help you battle SAD.

Taking a walk, stretching, or doing a short weight lifting or aerobic workout is one of the best ways to restore some of the energy that SAD has drained from you.

Youtube has a bunch of great short workout videos. It can be hard to get up and do it, but once you’re done you will not regret it.

#3 Reach out to people

Many college students with SAD report feeling like an entirely different person from the Summer versions of themselves.

The first step is recognizing that there is a seasonal pattern in your mood.

SAD affects 1%-2% of the entire population. Chances are someone you know feels the same. Especially in the midwest, northeast or northwest.

It is a normal part of life. When it starts to happen it easily can feel like you’re putting your life on hold for a few months. That doesn’t have to be the case. 

Reaching out to a friend or family member can help soothe some of the anxiety prompted by SAD. Recognizing you will probably start to feel down soon can feel empowering.

When it begins to happen during the Fall season, you can recognize it and be more prepared in the future. 

If symptoms feel out of control or the helplessness is getting to be too much, seek medical help. Therapy and medication are ways doctors can help you.

If you are not at that point and just need someone to talk to, reaching out to another person can help you feel less alone. 

A landscape with the sun glaring down.

Remember, this feeling is never permanent. 

These are some pretty basic tips but it’s always nice to have reminders.

It is important to start monitoring how you feel as winter approaches and the effects of SAD become more apparent.

Stay safe, stay healthy.

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