Tis the Season for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Jesse Shewfelt 01/22/2015

‘Tis the Season…

A friend of mine had gone south some time in December. A trip somewhere warm in the coldest season. Before catching up with her I had seen her tweet something to the effect of “I’m living somewhere where there’s no winter! I miss the sun!” At a middle-school reunion we talked further about enduring the winter season. She said, “I always get depressed in the winter. I thought it was just normal.” Which is right. It is normal. Seasonal Affective Disorder was/is a term I’m familiar with. With that in mind, any student enduring the depressive winter season needs to know that it’s a difficult struggle many people are going through.

Mental health, thankfully, is a topic of conversation that’s become prominent and my family has had to become savvy to some terms. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD – the painfully pertinent acronym) is a mood disorder where the winter months have strong adverse effects on your cognition. Everyone struggles to get through winter, but for some it is more than a struggle to get out of bed and into the cold. For some it’s an annual battle with depression.

Different strategies have come up over the years and, being the stoic individual that I am, I often stupidly refuse to follow them. I have no fail-safe plan, I’ll be honest. Mostly because it’s up to your own willingness to be motivated whether you actually end up being motivated. It feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy that’s doomed to be against you. Vitamin-D is one strategy. Exercise another. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s – also called anti-depressants) one more. But with mental health already being a balancing act, SAD can be that one straw that breaks the metaphorical camel’s back. This year, though, I have started a new strategy. It’s been pretty rewarding, and I’ve found myself in great relationships with greater people. It consists of openly talking about it.

It’s hard, but the more I’ve openly talked about it the less alone I’ve felt in dealing with it. Not everyone understands, but many empathize; and that empathy is immeasurable in how helpful it is. To have the burden of SAD, and also taking on the burden of dealing with it, can be overwhelming. That’s why a support system is essential for everyone. Looking out for people who help, rather than hurt, your mood and self-esteem is a habit that will build up your circle of close, reliable support systems. People who don’t tire your emotional energy, but people who replenish it. It’s not to say people who tire you aren’t worth your energy, but more so that you only have so much energy to give and it’s important to make sure there is enough for yourself. And that’s what it comes down to.

Take care of yourself. There’s a reason we have a reading week in the winter. It’s hard to keep up with the demands of school, and the demands of your own health at the same time during these coming months. I’d like to recall what I wrote earlier about having “no fail-safe plan”. That is one-hundred percent true. It’s always going to be a struggle. That’s the nature of the beast. But what can be reassuring is that you can keep trying, and developing, new ways to ensure that feeling happy doesn’t become something alien to you once the days start becoming shorter. Feeling happy in the winter months is something that requires more care and attention. It’s important to try, and remember it’s worth it.

We got this, Queen’s.

Cha Gheil.


Jesse Shewfelt is an Assistant Editor at the Queen’s Tartan

  • Devon Shewfelt

    Great article bringing to light a very common issue and to normalize it. Another great option is a Light Box that you sit in front of for 30minutes every morning, while you’re eating breakfast or whatever your morning routine may be. Vitamin D supplement >1000 IU daily also effective. Important to talk to your doctor if you start to have symptoms above and beyond “feeling down.” If you can afford it, take a trip somewhere very sunny during your reading week!!