The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

How to beat the winter blues

How+to+beat+the+winter+blues

     As the mornings become darker and the sky grows grayer, the armed and dangerous winter blues make their way back into town.  Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression, is a mood disorder that many experience during the colder, darker months of the year. It’s typically self-diagnosable, and it’s actually extremely common, with more than 3 million reported cases in the United States every winter.

Those with seasonal affective disorder often describe it as a sluggish, depressive era that occurs around the same time every year, and includes a general decline in energy, lack of motivation for day-to-day activities, and usually a disturbance in sleep or weight. Vermont is ranked second out of all fifty states, with only Alaska placed ahead of us, for having the highest seasonal depression rates. Burlington is ranked number one out of all major U.S. cities for highest SAD rates, according to a 2017 study  by the Mayo Clinic. Lamoille County’s cold weeks typically take up around six months of the year, which means there is half a year available for those winter blues to creep in. So what can we do to fight them off?  Here’s some of the tools that I’ve found most helpful for surviving the seemingly inevitable Vermont winter slump:

 

Keep your Sleep Schedule in Check– Melatonin, a sleep-related hormone, is one of the main drivers of seasonal affective As the days get shorter and darker, it signals to the body to create more melatonin, even if the day isn’t over, and causes fatigue and grogginess. This can lead to unwanted sleep during the day, or lack of sleep at night. It’s tricky, but not relying on what the sky outside is saying and keeping an established sleep schedule keeps the body and the mind more focused and less groggy.

 

Let’s Close our Eyes– An unorthodox approach at bettering your mental health during the winter months, yet effective, is taking time to practice mindfulness and meditation. Embracing the present moment through practicing mindfulness and meditation is particularly beneficial for individuals struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder. All that is required for an effective meditation session is a quiet space and an open mind. Mindfulness and self-reflection ties into this quiet time as it is a great way to clear your mind of negativity, and tie one back into the things that matter. By intentionally noticing and acknowledging the things we are grateful for, even the smallest joys in life, one can shift their focus away from negativity and towards positivity. This shift in perspective can provide a much-needed boost in mood and emotional well-being for those experiencing the effects of SAD. Ultimately, focusing on the here and now is a fundamental principle of mindfulness and an effective way to alleviate the impacts of this disorder. By directing our attention to the present moment, we can break free from negative thought patterns and worries about the future, allowing ourselves to fully experience life and find solace amidst the winter gloom.

 

We Should Talk– Talking to friends and family can be incredibly helpful in combating symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Even though it can seem easier at times to self-isolate and keep to yourself during these shorter days, their presence can provide a sense of comfort and reassurance, making you feel less alone in your struggle. Engaging in meaningful conversations with others can uplift your spirits, distract you from negative thoughts, and help you refocus your energy.

 

How About a Walk?– Taking a walk around your campus, your neighborhood, or really whatever outdoor space is available to you, has proven benefits that are key to attacking SAD. One of the key advantages is the exposure to natural sunlight, which plays a pivotal role in combating the symptoms of this condition. Sunlight is a natural source of Vitamin D, essential for regulating mood and overall well-being. By spending time outdoors, individuals can soak up the sunlight and increase their production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that positively affects mood. Taking ten to fifteen minutes out of your schedule to make sure outdoor time is part of your daily routine is a really great way to ease the overwhelming symptoms of SAD. Bring a friend or two with you if you’re able! Having a person with you provides motivation, and social interaction is crucial in stomping out those depressive symptoms.

 

Vitamin D is your friend- Losing such a huge percentage of our daily sun intake, where most of us get our Vitamin D naturally, is tied to this decrease in energy and mood. Good levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced stress levels. More importantly, it has been found to increase serotonin levels in the body, the hormone which is known for stabilizing your mood and increasing overall happiness. Even with time spent outdoors, the short days and cloudy skies limit the amount of vitamin D that winter can offer us, which means we have to get this vitamin through other sources, such as diet. Some of the best dietary sources of vitamin D are fish, eggs, mushrooms, milk, and citrus fruits. Introducing some of these foods into your diet, as well as taking advantage of the little sun we receive during these winter months, is a great way to ward off that seasonal sadness.

I’ve found these methods to be helpful in the past winters, but I am not a medical professional by any means. If you feel your symptoms are just too much to take on by yourself, don’t hesitate to reach out to your primary care physician.

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About the Contributor
Mik Crane, Staff Writer
Mik Crane (she/her) is an undeclared early college student who fled to VTSU-Johnson to escape her soul-crushing high school. She loves writing, snowboarding, and hanging out with her white crusty dog, Theodore Benson.