Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): What is it and How Can You Cope?

Image courtesy of
Zoë Jurkowski, S&E Editor

As we approach the middle of spring semester, Wooster students must face the frequently cold and gloomy weather that is winter in Ohio. For some, it might even be your first winter. Bundling up for your 8 a.m. or trying to get enough vitamin D becomes increasingly difficult as the dreary weather carries on, and daylight savings hasn’t helped. In conditions like these, it’s hard not to feel down or depressed. But what exactly causes this? 

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a form of depression. It can occur in any season, but is most common during late fall and winter. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 5% of adults in the U.S. experience SAD, and another 10-20% experience a milder form known as the “winter blues.” 

Symptoms include, but are not limited to: feelings of sadness or depression, anxiety, fatigue, irritation, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping and hopelessness. The cold weather, lack of sunlight and gray surroundings take a toll on your body, and it can be hard to realize. Rushing from class to class, focusing on assignments and extracurriculars, socializing, working and the millions of other responsibilities students have makes it even harder to recognize when you’re being affected by the seasons and your surroundings. SAD is not limited to Wooster students either. Faculty, staff and community members are all equally as prone to SAD as you are. So how exactly can you cope? 

First, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Boston University estimates that 10 million Americans are affected by SAD each year. It’s important to take your feelings seriously, and know that if you’re struggling, others are here to help. The Longbrake Student Wellness Center has a counselor on-call 24 hours a day, and accepts appointments through the number (330)-263-2319. They also offer 15-minute confidential consultations on Microsoft Teams that are available for sign up on the Wellness Center’s website.

Second, if you are able, try investing in a form of light therapy. Whether it is an alarm clock that uses light to naturally wake you up, a sun lamp or a light therapy box, providing your body with alternative ways to receive light stimulation in times where you do not receive enough could help alleviate any symptoms you are experiencing. The Wellness Center also has sun lamps available for students who need them. 

Third, finding a new hobby or spending time with friends can help. Being cooped up inside can lead to restless and irritable feelings, and it’s helpful to occupy yourself with things other than homework. Watching a new show, making some hot cocoa, learning the intricate art of origami or playing a new card game with friends can all help to make the winter more entertaining and pass by easier. 

Luckily for us at Wooster (or maybe not), the winter offers strange and scattered days of warmth and sunshine. On these days, take the opportunity to go on a walk or just spend some time outside. Even in the dullest days of winter, the campus is beautiful and offers wonderful space for a 10-15 minute walk. Just make sure to bundle up and pay attention to your surroundings, as campus is slippery this time of year! 

Finally, it’s important to note once again that if you are struggling, reach out to a professional. SAD is not something to take lightly, and if you are having a rough time, it is more than valid. Professional help and information is by far the most important resource on this list, and it comes first out of all the advice offered. Sun lamps and walks may help to alleviate symptoms, but it is still important to receive help from someone trained and knowledgeable in the matter.

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