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Seasonal depression disrupts life, guide to overcoming symptoms

Iqra Rafey/The Cougar

As finals season ramps up and the holidays looming just around the corner, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Adding to this burden is the extremely high possibility of suffering from “Seasonal Affective Disorder, more commonly known as seasonal depression. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder is characterized by having low energy, feeling hopeless and having difficulty concentrating. It’s commonly felt in the winter months and affects millions of Americans every year.

While seasonal depression can seem overwhelming, experts say it can be overcome in multiple ways. So as days get shorter and the nights grow cold, make sure to take care of yourself and consider trying several of these simple steps toward fighting depression.

“There are several ways students can deal with seasonal affective disorder during the winter months,” said CAPS assistant director for outreach Marti Trummer- Cabrera. “If they’re in Houston, getting outside when it’s sunny is a great start. Making and keeping plans with friends and family during these times can also be another way to fend off symptoms.”

Get some light in your life

As the hours of sunlight available in a day decrease going into the winter months, depression is likely to worsen, since your mood is heavily impacted by how much light you get regularly. Experts suggest spending as much time outside as possible. 

“As someone who very much experiences it throughout the colder months one of my experiences is just to be out in the sunlight for a while,” said English sophomore Davis Brooks. 

Something is better than nothing, so even if it’s just studying next to the fountains for an hour, it can go a long way. And if you can’t get outside for whatever reason, consider purchasing a light box. They provide many of the same positive effects, and the Yale school of medicine has compiled a convenient list of options.

Sleep well

While this may be hard to do, especially during finals week, experts say that establishing a good “sleep-wake cycle” is crucial to maintaining your mental health. 

Studies have shown that “extra sleep” past around eight hours doesn’t do much to give you more energy, but actually makes depression worse. Even if you have to stay up well into the night, consider doing it consistently, and shooting for at least seven hours of sleep if possible.

Talk it out

It might sound cliché, but Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to dramatically reduce the effects brought on by seasonal depression. While this is best achieved by speaking with a mental health professional, sometimes just taking a break from studies and spending time around people can do wonders. 

Consider visiting one of the many student organizations on Get Involved, or seeking community support through the AD Bruce Religion center.

You’re not alone

At the end of the day, we’re all in this together, and you matter to someone. Depression isn’t easy by any measure, and it can be easy to let the negative thoughts spiral as the weather outside gets gloomier. But coogs are a family, and we look out for each other.

“If a student is feeling down for multiple days at a time and can’t get motivated to do activities they normally enjoy, they should visit CAPS at the Health 2 Building or call (713-743-5454) for a brief assessment,” Trummer- Cabrera said. 

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