October 5, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 64°F

ColumnsMindful Talks

Column: ‘Tis the season to ask for help

As the leaves begin to change, the days become colder and the nights longer, our old friend seasonal depression begins to creep in, making itself known. 

Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that is related to the changing of the seasons. It is most common for people to experience this at the end of fall and into the winter months. This probably has to do with it being colder and darker, which is the perfect environment for depression to thrive in.

I am someone who deals with depression year-round and therefore do not experience the depression that appears as the winter months approach. I find that I am in the small percentage of people who actually enjoy and look forward to the colder months. However, I know many people deal with this and, on top of midterms and the end of the semester approaching, many people are struggling to find the motivation to do even the simplest tasks. 

I wanted to write about this because many people experience this, but feel as though something is wrong with them. They begin to feel sad and tired, losing interest in what they love and not understanding where this is coming from. In reality, this is an extremely common experience, with about 10 million Americans encountering these feelings every autumn.  

I know that once these feelings settle in, it can seem almost impossible to get out of them and that the easier option would be to lay in bed all day. I wanted to shed some light on resources and tools to help anyone who is struggling during these hard months. 

Vitamin D is an extremely beneficial vitamin and allows us to feel happier and less depressed. Vitamin D mainly comes from the sun, which unfortunately isn’t out that much throughout the winter months. Therefore, many people who are used to receiving this through sunlight see a decrease in their mood. There are multiple easy ways that can help with the decrease in vitamin D and sunlight. One way is to start taking vitamin D pills. This way, your body is still getting its daily dose of vitamin D, which will allow you to feel happier. I personally take vitamin D, and it is great for this and for staying healthy, which is always important. 

Another way to help with the lack of sunlight, which I have recently learned about, is light therapy. This comes from phototherapy boxes, which mimic the light that comes from natural sunshine. This exposure to light can help with keeping a person’s circadian rhythm in line since in the winter it normally becomes unbalanced. Sitting in front of this lightbox for just 20 minutes a day can help change the chemicals in your brain to boost your mood. The Center for Counseling and Psychiatric Services and the Center for Health Promotion offers the chance to use light-therapy units if you contact them and explain your needs. 

Another option, that I know is hard to do if you are feeling depressed, is to exercise. I know that during the winter months, getting up and getting dressed to work out seems like the last thing you would want to do, but it can actually be really helpful with treating the winter blues. Exercising naturally releases endorphins, which are known to boost your mood. It will also help with feeling productive, which can really help when sitting around depressed. 

If you are struggling, know that there are so many other people who are in the same boat. Don’t feel ashamed to reach out to a friend and let them know how these colder months are affecting you. You may be surprised as to how many other people feel the same, and creating support systems is the most important aspect of dealing with mental illness.