RWC tutor Mattlyn Stricker discusses Seasonal Affective Disorder and how to practice self-care during this time of year that is difficult for many.
Mental Health is always an essential consideration in our lives, even more so in winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD (yes…really). It is something that occurs in most people as the winter months progress. Even if you are not ‘normally’ depressed or struggling with your mental health, you can still experience symptoms of SAD. Additionally, as college students, we all know December brings around Finals Season and more stress along with it. It is more important than ever to care for your well-being.
Are you SAD?
Some Symptoms include:
Being Low energy
Loss of interest in things you usually enjoy
Sleeping more than usual
Feeling more agitated than usual
Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
Loss of appetite or unplanned weight changes
Ways to Improve Your Mental Health:
Go outside at least once a day: Even if it is simply for 5 minutes between classes, there have been scientific links between spending time outdoors and decreased symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Also, Vitamin D is essential with the decreased sunlight in the winter months.
Exercise is always important to keep yourself physically healthy, but especially if you are experiencing symptoms of SAD, exercise can be even more useful. Exercise has been linked to improved mood, cognitive function, and memory due to the chemicals released in your brain while exerting your muscles. You don't have to run a marathon or bench 300 lbs daily; something as simple as a 15-minute jog will give you the same benefits. Plus, exercise has also been linked to improved focus. Who doesn't need that during finals season??
Taking care of yourself is even more important than usual during stressful times. If you do not take time away from your commitments to focus on yourself, you will burn out; it is nearly inevitable. Additionally, self-care is a massive factor in improving your mental health. Do something you enjoy, whether that is watching your favorite show for the 5th time or taking a scalding hot shower—anything to relax you and allow your brain and body time to decompress.
Do Not Isolate Yourself-
I know many times when you are feeling down, it is easy to cancel plans or stay in your room all day, but you cannot isolate yourself. Make plans with friends, hang out with your family, even go study at a coffee shop. Being around other people can do amazing things for your mental health. Additionally, studies have shown that even short periods of social isolation can lead to cognitive decline and exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Humans are social creatures, and you need social interaction to thrive.