Beating the Winter Blues

Photo by Meg Shearer | Collegian Media Group

Tips on warding off SAD during the holiday season

Even as classes begin again, friends are reuniting and celebrations are beginning, many students are approaching the darkest part of their year. For them, with snow and gifts and relaxation comes seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. It is a form of depression that an estimated 5 percent of people suffer from (many unknowingly), most prevalent amongst younger adults–women in particular.

Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms under SAD:

Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
Having low energy
Having problems with sleeping
Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
Feeling sluggish or agitated
Having difficulty concentrating
Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

The three main treatments for SAD are medication, light therapy and psychotherapy. Before relying on these, it is highly recommended that patients see a professional for physical and psychological evaluation.

However, if you’re just feeling a little down this winter, there are a few simple remedies that have been known to provide relief.

Invest in a few house plants

The pale, barren landscape of winter can be extremely unpleasant for people who enjoy nature and exploring the outdoors, especially when low temperatures hit. Luckily, there are plenty of plants that thrive indoors and brighten winter days. Succulents, palms, spider plants, aloe, ivy, Boston ferns and snake plants are particularly difficult to kill, making them great plants for students lacking a green thumb.

Adopt a furry friend

Some students find that caring for a small animal can greatly reduce stress and give them greater purpose. Of course, this is not a decision to be taken lightly, and anyone already struggling to care for themselves should think twice before taking responsibility for another life. That being said, with enough time, money and research, animals like geckos, cats or even goldfish can become great companions. As always, remember to consider adoption before shopping — plenty of shelter animals are in need of homes.

Take a brief vacation

Of course, many K-Staters don’t have the time or money for lengthy adventures, but even a day trip to nearby attractions can be refreshing, especially if the weather is nice enough to explore the outdoors. Kansas boasts dozens of scenic, mild hiking opportunities and historical attractions, such as the Konza Prairie trails, the Tallgrass Prairie and bison herd, Monument Rocks, Coronado Heights and Rock City. Slightly longer drives take students to bigger cities like Topeka, Wichita and Kansas City for concerts, museums and shopping districts.

Research and choose a light therapy box

Again, Mayo Clinic highly recommends speaking to a professional before attempting light therapy, but for those who want to give it a try, Amazon offers a wide variety of different models. The idea behind light therapy boxes is that the shortened daylight hours during winter disrupt some people’s internal clocks, intensifying symptoms of SAD like fatigue. Using a light box for a specific length of time at a specific time of day has been said to reduce symptoms significantly. Remember to research before attempting the therapy, to avoid making the situation worse.

Try yoga or tai chi

Some people may prefer to manage their stress and emotions through methods such as yoga, tai chi or meditation. The K-State Recreation Center offers multiple yoga classes throughout the week for all levels of participants. Another less-common alternative is tai chi, which combines slow, gentle movements with stretching, deep breathing, and meditation.

Try music or art therapy

Expression through singing, playing instruments, drawing, painting, etc. can unload a huge burden at a time when it’s too easy to feel caught up and trapped in negative emotions. Plus, it provides an opportunity to produce something to be proud of, and doesn’t require a particular skill level.

Open the blinds and sit near windows

Although it seems relatively insignificant, this simple step can make all the different during the dark winter months. Sitting near a window decreases the sense of isolation and makes those suffering from SAD feel more involved in the world around them. It’s even more helpful to take breaks outside and exercise a little every day, but when that just isn’t possible, letting more light in can improve general attitude immensely.

Socialize

Last but not least, look to friends and family for support and encouragement. Take some time out of every week to reconnect with loved ones, to catch up on their lives and let them know how things are going. They can’t help if they don’t know what’s happening. Plus, it’s an easy way to stave off those feelings of loneliness, and remain more involved in the world.

Manhappenin' Magazine is Kansas State University's student-created lifestyle magazine.

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