Whether you simply prefer the warmer months or you truly suffer from seasonal affective disorder (aka SAD), the winter blues can be a real thing that affects up to one out of four adults, including college students.
So if you want to fight back this year, read on for some DIY tips on how to beat the winter blues.
What is seasonal affective disorder?
Ever notice that as fall begins and the days get shorter, you find yourself feeling more tired, more irritable and generally just moodier? It may not be your roommate driving you crazy or your class load getting you down. You may suffer from seasonal affective disorder. What we once thought was just a case of the winter blues is a real condition that affects some people more than others.
A doctor probably won’t diagnosis you with SAD until you show two consecutive years in a row of intense symptoms. Seasonal affective disorder symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:
- Tiredness or low energy
- Problems getting along with other people
- Hypersensitivity to rejection
- Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
What causes seasonal affective disorder?
Now that you know what symptoms to look for to determine if your winter blues are more serious, what causes this melancholy and doldrums? Webmd.com shared the root cause: “Sensitivity to the lack of sunlight that results from winter’s “shorter” days and disrupts our circadian rhythm, or internal body clock. The degree of this sensitivity, and resulting winter depression severity, largely stems from some combination of other factors — your geography, genetics, and individual brain chemistry.”
DIY ideas for how to beat the winter blues
So while I could advise you to move to Florida, where only about 1 percent of residents suffer from the winter blues, obviously that isn’t realistic for everyone. Instead I’ve got some other DIY tips for how to beat seasonal affective disorder.
Start by getting as much sunlight as you possibly can—and standing by a window isn’t going to cut it. College students may have it easier than some adults do, because at least you may be forced to walk outside during the day between classes. But if that isn’t giving you enough exposure to sunlight, I suggest you consider an artificial “sunbox” light. Unlike regular indoor lighting (which also won’t help you), these light boxes have special fluorescent tubes that mimic the rays from the sun. Experts recommend getting 30 minutes of exposure from these light boxes first thing in the morning to help.
Other DIY fixes
If you aren’t ready to invest in a light box, what are some other things you can try? Here are the top three how-to fixes you can try on your own:
- Get outside as much as possible during the daylight hours.
- Be sure to fit in regular workouts to help decrease anxiety and stress.
- Make time to be social because seeing others can lift your spirits.
If light therapy or these DIY ideas don’t help you beat the winter blues, other options include antidepressants and psychotherapy if your symptoms are severe. Finding the right medication can take some time, while therapy can assist you with SAD by offering coping techniques or identifying negative thoughts and behaviors.