Student health: How to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder

We all get the winter blues—especially halfway through when you’re desperately trying to balance all of the things life throws at you. For some, seasonal depression (also known as seasonal affective disorder) is a real obstacle to overcome. If you feel like you just can’t shake the funky mood this time of year, try these quick tips for some relief.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

A post by the Mayo Clinic defines seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as “a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year.” Students who live in the northern states that tend to get less sun during the cold months seem to be more prone to SAD depression.

Some people can suffer from SAD during the summer months as well. Don’t discredit prolonged feelings of depression during the warmer parts of the year as just “a bad mood.” Seek professional help if you’re feeling down for an extended period of time.

What are the treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder?

PubMed Health suggests that people suffering with SAD can benefit from traditional forms of therapy used to treat other forms of depression such as taking antidepressants or indulging in talk therapy. However, for SAD it may be beneficial to get more sunlight in your life during the long, dark winter months.

  • Take a long walk during the day. The combination of sunlight + exercise should help you feel much better.
  • Ask your doctor about how to use light therapy — directly exposing yourself to a special lamp that mimics light from the sun.
  • Let the sun shine in: Trim all tree branches that may be blocking windows in your home from allowing the sun to shine in.
  • Move your workspace closer to sunny spots in your home to allow maximum exposure while you’re working or studying at home.

It is important to note that symptoms of SAD generally fade as the days get longer again. If you’re feeling as if the symptoms persist year-round, you may want to look into professional help as you may have a more serious condition of depression.

How can you cope during the winter semester?

If you know that you’re prone to feeling down during the fall and winter months, get proactive about your health before the days get shorter. Get into an exercise routine to help combat the oncoming stress of the cold. Stick to your outside running route as long as it’s safe. When the sidewalks are too dangerous, get yourself a pair of anti-slip ice traction aids to put on your shoes during your daily walks.

Make sure you have time to do things you enjoy, rather than only focusing on schoolwork 24/7. Video games, an occasional night out and retail therapy are all fine in moderation. If you make time for things you like to do, when it comes time to sit down and study for midterms, you won’t feel restless and overwhelmed.

According to the January 22, 2010 post “Lighten Up! How to beat back winter blues,” on, producing more positive thoughts during the winter months will help keep your mood up, too. “You can also respond to negative thoughts like ‘I hate winter,’ and ‘I can’t deal with this,’ or ‘Winter is never going to end’ with ‘I know what to do to feel better’ and ‘Winter is a challenge, and I become stronger by meeting the challenge,'” says author Jeffrey Rossman, Ph.D.

In all cases of suspected depression, please talk to your doctor for professional advice, and please know that I am not a medical professional. Keep yourself healthy at all times during the year, but especially during the winter semester when our bodies are prone to more stress and sickness. Remember, spring is just around the corner!

What are some of your ideas for shaking the winter blues?


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