Words by Jaqueline Bautista
Illustration by Katie Herchenroeder
The temperature continued to drop in the last days of January 2019, and so did the serotonin levels in some of our brains. Seasonal affective disorder or S.A.D. is a form of depression correlated with seasonal changes. While its most commonly experienced in cooler climates, some may experience S.A.D. in warmer areas as well. Symptoms may arise in late fall or early winter, for those who are affected by warmer weather symptoms may develop in Spring or Summer.
The cause for S.A.D. is still unknown, but one factor that may contribute to the development of S.A.D. is the biological clock- a mechanism that controls the physiological patterns of individuals which can change, daily, yearly, or seasonally. Further, limited sunlight exposure can reduce Serotonin levels and have a negative effect on one’s constitution and can lead to depression. Moreover, Melatonin levels can be skewed by the change in climate disrupting sleeping pattern and moods.
Some symptoms that may manifest are having low energy, sleeping problems, or having a change in your appetite. Those who experience S.A.D. during the cooler climate may experience oversleeping, appetite changes or cravings, weight gain, and tiredness. In warmer climates, individuals may see they have a poor appetite, experience weight loss, insomnia, and agitation or anxiety. Other symptoms may include losing interest in activities that once brought you joy, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal thoughts.
If you’re having any serious thoughts of hurting yourself, know that you will overcome this and seek help. Text HOME to 741741 to reach the 24/7 Depression Hotline or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Additionally, NYC Well offers around the clock texting, talking, and other resources. On campus, the Counseling Center is located in NAC 8/213.
If the above sounds familiar, you can ask your doctor about taking antidepressants. Although it may be a very intimidating thing to confront, seeking treatment may be the answer you’ve been looking for. In the case that you do not like the effects, you can always stop taking the medication. There is nothing wrong with seeking help.
For those who are unable to escape the cold here are some additional tips to make your days lighter:
To seriously add some light back into your life, you can try light treatment by using a lightbox which mimics sunshine. By using it for 30 minutes a day you can simulate your body’s circadian rhythms, or your internal clock, and decrease its release of melatonin.
Begin taking vitamin D – research shows that those who took vitamin D supplements experienced large improvement with their depression. Talk to your doctor before beginning any treatment.
Keep a journal. Express yourself and your feelings. Accept your fears and weaknesses. Embraces your successes. Write down what you are going through and you will find that you will see a positive change in your overall mood. You can also attempt aromatherapy while journaling, which can stimulate areas of our brains that affect our mood.
Stimulate yourself. Go to the drug store and run your errands, go to the gym, go catch lunch with a friend, go to a café and grab a coffee or tea, do something or at least try. If you attempt to make it out, at least you tried. Even if you’re only out for ten minutes, you can still cross it off the list – which are also dutiful to make during this time.
Most importantly, remember that better times will come and that you are allowed to feel SAD. Not everyone will understand you because not everyone has a brain that works like yours.