For many, the coming holiday season means more than peppermint mochas and winter clothes. As fall heads into winter and the break slowly approaches, students are bombarded with homework, semester exams, and stress. During this ‘festive’ time the temperature drops and the number of daylight hours decreases immensely. Associated with these changes are fatigue, sadness, and overall lack of motivation.
Despite what some of your parents say, there is an actual reason for feeling this way. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression, is a mood disorder that has an average of 3 million cases in the US per year. It’s characterized as depression that happens at the same time annually.
A typical case begins in the fall then pushes their way through winter, sucking out all your energy and making you feel moody. It can also cause a lack of interest in hobbies you once enjoyed, no motivation, problems sleeping, and struggling to concentrate.
Students can be majorly affected by this disorder in more ways than one. The lack of motivation and depression that is associated with seasonal affective disorder can cause a drop in grades, concentration, and even the way we socialize on a day to day basis.
The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder is unknown but some factors that come into play all include the reduced sunlight we get each day. The decreased sunlight can affect your body’s internal clock and lead to a winter-induced depression. Sunlight is also correlated with serotonin levels in your brain. Because of less sunlight we get each day, less serotonin is produced which may trigger depression. The change in season can disrupt the body’s balance of melatonin as well, which plays a large role in your sleep cycle and moods.
Despite the bleak affects SAD appears to have, there are many treatment options. These include light therapy (phototherapy), medications, and psychotherapy. So don’t push aside these annual feelings as simply a seasonal funk or the “winter blues” that you have to struggle through on your own, because they can be dealt with.
Even though all the homework and tests we receive during the three week period between Thanksgiving and winter break isn’t technically the reason there’s a slump that metaphorically blankets the school, it can definitely contribute to it. It is important to know however, that if you are feeling down there is a reason for it and there is no need to feel ashamed. It's normal to feel this way, and it is also normal to receive help. So talk to someone about it. A friend, a parent, or even a therapist. Just know that you are not alone.