It’s More Than Just the Winter Blues

As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, getting up for school gets more and more difficult and before you know it, you’re in a slump. This can turn into seasonal depression, which is a depression that begins when the seasons start to change. Usually, this begins in the fall and continues into the winter, It’s like the cold saps all the energy out of you. What most people mistake about seasonal depression is that it is an actual disorder and begins around the same time each year for the affected person, it’s more than just the “winter blues.” 


Seasonal depression is different than regular depression or MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) in that it has a predictable end. As the months progress people usually grow out of that depression. Regular depression is a chronic illness that can last years and years without any change or progress. Any depression can be recognized by a prolonged feeling of distress, disinterest and low energy. However if you see these symptoms at a specific time each year and then it goes away, it could be possible that you have seasonal depression. 


Students are pros at putting on a happy face even though they might be drowning in stress, so it’s hard for people to tell when you’re struggling. Even worse, it’s hard for teachers to tell when you’re struggling during the winter season. Dr. Haslam, a teacher at Copper Hills, says, “Everyone carries weight from their life, it’s just a part of being human. However some are better than others at hiding how much they’re carrying. I often don’t know when a student is suffering from seasonal depression unless they tell me, someone they know tells me, or they exhibit specific and apparent behaviors of depression.” So students, if you’re struggling with this winter depression and you need help from teachers, tell them. Most likely they will be understanding and try to work with you.


Teachers do want to help you, and believe it or not they suffer from some of the same problems you do. Dr. Haslam himself deals with depression, so the area isn’t new to him. Speaking with your teachers is a great way to get some of that weight off of your shoulders and see what you can do to make your classes feel less like a burden. 


Teachers not only want to help but they know how to help. They have some great ideas on what you can do to get through this rough time of year. They know you struggle, they see it again and again every year. Some ideas Haslam has include getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, having a balanced diet and exercise, just take care of yourself. “Getting into the cycles where you don’t take care of yourself makes it even harder and makes you feel more hopeless when trying to get out of those cycles,” Haslam says. So start strong with good self-care habits and make yourself as much of a priority as school is.


Another thing that could help if you have seasonal depression is simply getting outside. Going out and getting that Vitamin D can do wonders for someone who has been cooped up all winter. According to Medical News Today, “Lack of exposure to natural light is one of the apparent reasons behind winter SAD.” Light therapy is a great alternative if you can’t get out in the sun, what matters is getting that literal and physical light in your life.


Another one of the symptoms can be severe fatigue and oversleeping, so being active can make a huge difference. Go out for a walk, have a snowball fight, consider joining a winter sport. These can help you get outside, in the sun, and can force you not to not isolate yourself. 


For many, the problem is that it’s cold outside.  People stay inside to avoid the freezing temperatures, which results in them feeling alone and disconnected. So even putting a little effort to talk to more people, doing an activity instead of taking a nap, or spending an extra 10 minutes with friends after school could help a lot.


If you do have seasonal depression, there are many resources that can help and give you that extra boost you need to get through the winter. Have something to look forward to everyday, make each day a special one. There’s still hope for you to have a great winter and to get out of this cycle. Keep the spirit up Grizzlies, you’ve got this!