How students can battle seasonal depression

The+view+from+the+quad+is+filled+with+clouds+and+leafless+trees+during+January+and+February.

Leila Touati

The view from the quad is filled with clouds and leafless trees during January and February.

Leila Touati, Page Editor

Winter is reaching its full peak in January and February, and while students are preparing for the new semester, some feel increased pressure to perform better and get better grades than in the first semester. With winter bringing a decrease in sunlight, shorter days, and more pressure from school, students begin to spiral and suffer from seasonal depression. 

“I do feel as though my mood changes during the winter months. In the beginning, the holiday season and winter break makes me excited. However, after the new year, when all that’s left is the cold weather itself and the short days, I feel a bit sad. I would say I’m more unhappy in the winter months than in the summer because of the shorter days and cold weather,” said Mabel Song (‘22).

Seasonal depression is a form of depression that is related to changes in seasons and a decrease of Vitamin D, which comes from sunlight. 

“Seasonal Affective Disorder is a clinical depressive or mood disorder that can only be diagnosed by a medical professional. It is much more serious than what we traditionally see with students that is often referred to as ‘the winter blues’. Seasonal Depression is more typical in areas further from the equator,” said Amador Social Studies teacher, Sarah Melvin.

Symptoms of seasonal depression include fatigue, social withdrawal, and hopelessness. But even in these grueling months, it is possible to battle the blues this year in 2020.

“In order to combat the ‘winter blues,’ students can get outside during daylight hours and do some light cardiovascular activity. For others, there is a light therapy that works by sitting in front of a special ‘light box’ for 30 minutes a day, which helps stimulate retina cells that send messages to the part of the brain called the hypothalamus that helps to regulate sleep and wake cycles. If students feel as though they are experiencing the ‘winter blues’, they should be seen by a medical professional since there are many other conditions that can lead to similar symptoms,” said Melvin.

Ice skating is one popular activity that people can do to get outside and exercise with friends and family during the winter time.

Many students at Amador have felt the winter blues due to the dark and grim weather, but each have their own techniques to battle these depressed feelings.

“My techniques for battling seasonal depression is to take advantage of the cold weather and spend time with friends and family indoors. I also like to drink a hot chocolate and watch a good movie when the weather’s bad. Little things like those make winter a bit more bearable,” said Song.

A common technique for battling seasonal depression is to increase physical care for your body.

“Exercise is always a good battle for depression because of the endorphins. Eating well and taking care of your body in general can do wonders year round,” said Amador Health and Yearbook teacher, Julie Foley.

Understanding whether your depressive state is simply due to “winter blues” or a more serious case of seasonal depression can be a tough task for many students.

“I do see some effects of how the season affects students’ mood during the winter months but I also can’t be certain that it’s seasonal depression versus the winter blues as there may be other factors that attribute to the depressive feelings. I do see that students struggle with their mood during the winter months. Some students struggle to articulate why they may be feeling more depressive symptoms in the winter months but it doesn’t automatically mean they have seasonal depression,” said Amador Support Counselor, Jennifer Yu.

The major difference between seasonal depression and “winter blues” is that seasonal depression is more complicated and spreads through all aspects of someone’s life.

“Winter months might mean more times in doors and the stressful holiday season which can lead to more overwhelming feelings overall for students that don’t have the most supportive family unit. Also, a recurring pattern of depression needs to be observed before we consider that its more than just stress and the winter blues,” said Yu.

Amador counselors encourage students to heed their advice on combating the winter blues.

“I would encourage students to maintain a regular schedule and healthy lifestyle during the winter months. I think we notice more changes in the winter because there are often shifts in our schedule and how we conduct our day. Continue to take time out of the day for yourself and continue to make plans with your friends. Avoid the temptation to hunker down in your warm bed because that can be isolating if we establish a pattern. It is often easier for us to be more lethargic and overindulge during the holiday/winter time but I would encourage students to try to maintain their routines even during the winter months,” said Yu.

Continuing a healthy lifestyle even throughout the cold winter months can significantly improve students’ moods. Students should try and spend the sunlit hours of the day either outside being physically active, or with friends and family. 

“I think that during the winter, my mood is more tired because of the dark weather and short days. It is kind of sad having to wake up in the dark and come home where it’s already dark, but I try and be more positive and focus on the happy things like the fact that vacation is coming soon. I don’t think I suffer from seasonal depression, but I’m sure a lot of people do due to the dark winter weather,” said Emma Sibout (‘23).

It is important for students to identify these depressed feelings during the winter months, but to also take action to combat these negative emotions.