Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Published November 15, 2015
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The Montclarion
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The changing weather can sometimes affect student emotions and performance. Photo Credit: Carly Phelps

This month, the weather in the eastern half of the United States will be warmer than your average November temperatures, based on information from weather.com. This is good news for those who are not yet ready for colder weather. This November, the temperature will typically range from 71 degrees to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and the temperatures will be colder towards the end of the month, decreasing even more in December and January.

In preparing for this winter, it is interesting to know and understand how students react to the change of weather and how it can affect their mood —whether they feel interrupted or excited — and also to find out some information about some psychological conditions that may occur during the winter months.

Looking for a Montclair State student opinion, I met with Brandon and Khalid, both freshmen at the university. Brandon, who comes from Ohio, feels that the weather here is worse than in his home state. Khalid, a New Jersey resident, feels more relaxed in facing the winter. However, both of them agree that cold weather can have a positive side, as you now have a reason to stay warm inside your residence hall, so it means more time for studying.

Based on Kristen Rodman’s article for AccuWeather, there are three conditions related to the effects of cold weather which everyone should be aware of: hibernation, winter blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Hibernation reminds me of Sandy Cheeks on SpongeBob SquarePants. In one episode, Sandy starts her hibernation. She is eating a lot, gaining weight and sleeping as long as the winter weather lasts. Many creatures hibernate during the winter. Unfortunately, humans also tend to follow Sandy’s example. They eat and sleep a lot to be prepared to spend the whole day in cold weather.

In winter, the darker, longer nighttime and lack of sunlight can bring bad feelings and also less enthusiasm. People call it the “winter blues.” A part of Passenger’s song “Let Her Go” portrays this feeling so well. “But you only need the light when it’s burning low. / Only miss the sun when it starts to snow.” As an international student, I never missed the sun before I came to the United States. Now, I am very happy to feel the sunlight.

Furthermore, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can become an issue for students in the winter. The symptoms include feeling tired, sad, sleeping more than usual, gaining 5 percent of your regular weight or more, finding it hard to concentrate and other psychological signs that can be associated with depression.

Based on my interview with Lisa Westreich, L.C.S.W., a Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) staff member, cold weather definitely influences human psychology and behavior. However, it will make a different impact on each person, as everyone has his or her own way of coping with the weather. Some people like to go exercise and others feel comfortable just staying at home. These variances are normal and you can do what you feel comfort with.

However, Westreich suggests some tips to face this cold weather. First, though it feels comfortable just lying in bed, you need to wake up and do something to start the day. Even a tiny action that you do can make you feel ready to face a cold day.

Second, try using a sunlight box or lamp which can help you deal with the lack of natural sunlight outdoors.

Third, just try to find ways to enjoy the seasons, which is especially useful for international students, who live only temporarily in New Jersey. This is an opportunity to experience sledding, snowshoeing, skiing, ice-skating and more.

Lastly, if you feel the situation is getting worse, you need to look for help. You can go to CAPS where there are professionals who can identify your problem as well as give you advice and help. It is completely free and confidential for Montclair State students.

What Westreich stated about finding a way to cheer your cold days happened to Evette, a transfer student at Montclair State who previously attended Essex County College. Evette, who has already starting wearing her winter coat though it is still fall, is excited to meet the winter because she finds it beautiful and she can enjoy sledding in the snow.

Yes, you can in fact feel happy and excited no matter what the weather is. There is no season that can ruin your day.

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