By Robert Parmer
This winter has already proven to be particularly extreme, as many parts of the country are facing unusually low temps and record snowfall. Aside from the obvious inconveniences associated with excessive snow, an often overlooked consolation to extreme winter weather presents itself when our mental health is hindered.
Seasonal depression also known as SAD (seasonal affective disorder) hits students hard when winter is in full force. Many people don’t even realize that their levels of depression are greatly increased, but this is a very real occurrence.
This means a huge number of students will face seasonal depression this winter. And a major seasonal challenge is not letting the frigid temperatures and inclement weather affect scholastic success.
I was motivated to research ways in which students can defeat SAD before it defeats them, primarily due to the fact that I myself struggle with seasonal depression. The following tips will help you combat SAD. If you take this advice to heart, you’ll be more armed with the tools to stop depression in its tracks this year and beyond!
Avoid Indoor Isolation: Get Outside However You Can
Winter sports and activities such as skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing, and even winter surfing, are all unique ways to get outside and stay active. For a more mellow approach to outdoor activity consider hiking and scouting out natural hot springs to soak in.
Even if getting outside just means going on a walk during breaks in snowstorms or building a snowman in your front yard, do something to get outside and avoid isolating yourself indoors.
Don’t Feel Ashamed For Seek Counseling or Mental Health Services
There are many negative stigmas in the world that may backtrack efforts to addressing mental health. Do not let these stigmas impact your individual mental health needs because there is simply no shame in seeking help.
I can speak from personal experience when saying that persistence is key in addressing mental health, especially during the winter season. It’s not always going to be easy to seek help and oftentimes requires visits to both general and mental health specific health practitioners.
An article by Regis College points this out and elaborates on the current state of the mental health field:
“In the United States, mental health practitioners are in short supply, where almost one in five American citizens seek mental health treatment annually. Due to the Mental Health and Addiction Parity Acts of 1996 and 2008, there is an increase in patients pursuing treatment for mental illnesses.”
While seeking professional help for depression is immensely important, it can be a daunting and overwhelming task. Stay determined and dedicated to putting your mental health first. Remind yourself that you are worth this effort, and you are not being selfish in any way by prioritizing these needs in your life.
Use Specialized Lighting In Your House
‘Light Therapy’ has proven to be helpful in alleviating SAD symptoms. Sitting in front of sunlamps, which replicate sunlight through the use of special fluorescent tubes, greatly elevates mood and gives your body essential vitamin D that it’s missing out on in the winter time.
These types of lights are widely available and are a simple way to help your subconscious mind steer away from depression.
Focus on Self-Care
Focus on yourself this year and especially this winter. When depression gets in the way of life, it can often distract people from recognizing and addressing their own self-care needs. Start by identifying what exactly is self-care.
An article by Case Western Social Work titled Social Work and Self-Care gives a fantastic definition of self-care:
“Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first. Then we can give from our surplus, our abundance.”
Creating a self-care checklist can be an excellent way to combat seasonal depression and ensure that your self-care needs are being met. Either write it down or simply ask yourself a series of these types of questions. The following are some common examples of self-care questions to ask yourself:
- Do I feel comfortable and warm enough? Have I taken a hot shower or bath recently?
- Have I eaten today, or in the last couple of hours?
- Have I been drinking enough water to stay properly hydrated?
- What are the emotions that are detracting from my mental health? Could it be that I’m experiencing depression or anxiety, or something else?
- Do I feel well enough to exercise? Would I benefit from exercising today?
- What can I do to feel more safe and secure?
- When did I feel excited last, and what was I excited about?
Budget A Healthy Diet
The old adage of ‘you are what you eat’ certainly pertains to a person’s mental health as well.
In the past, I’ve written about ways to maintain a healthy diet and focused on how save money while doing so. These tips are evergreen and overarching to college students. Preparing refined, healthy meals in advance, avoiding over-eating-out at restaurants, and shopping in the bulk section and at discount grocery stores are all gateways in achieving this.
It’s important to remember that a healthy diet doesn’t necessarily look the same for everyone. However, planning and consistency typically goes a long way and will likely help most people when it comes to making healthy choices on a budget.
Additional Tips for Fighting Anxiety and Depression
Looking for even more tips in addressing and combating seasonal depression? The previous College Puzzle article, How to Fight Anxiety and Depression in College Students may offer you some crucial extra support in the battle of overcoming seasonal depression.
Robert Parmer is a freelance web writer and student of Boise State University. Outside of writing whenever he has spare time, Robert enjoys creating and recording music, caring for his pet cat, and commuting by bicycle whenever possible. Follow him on Twitter @robparmer