Seasonal Affective Disorder hits hard during the winter months, and it’s taxing on students
Here come the holidays! Rainy days morph into snowy skies, and pumpkin lattes turn into peppermint frappuccinos. School breaks roam the calendar, which has students sighing with relief. But isn’t it getting harder to get out of bed? It’s just so dark outside and so warm in bed. And school doesn’t sound fun at all. Homework is starting pile up, but it’s okay, you’ll get it done over break. But you don’t. It’s all too overwhelming. School, sleep, social life, work, and the holidays? Sleep sounds so good, but there’s no time. What’s going on?
Don’t worry. This feeling isn’t uncommon. This is the effect of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which pops up around winter time every year for those affected. And it’s a common occurrence for teens.
Depression rates are rising for teens. About 20% of teens experience depression before reaching adulthood. And 6 out of 100 people are diagnosed with SAD, according to the Center for Discovery. Why does this happen?
Two chemicals in the brain are mainly linked to SAD: melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is produced when it gets dark out, and with the shorter days, there’s a spike in levels. This encourages sleep, which is why one may feel more tired and unmotivated. Serotonin, a chemical that helps in regulate mood, appetite, and social behavior, is produced with exposure to sunlight, which is why it drops during the winter time. This reaction of the brain leads to depression.
The struggle this brings to students is tremendous. Students begin to skip school to take breaks, sleep, or get caught up on the homework they already have. Because a lack of motivation to do school work and skipped days, grades begin to slack. And then in an attempt to get those grades back up, students work and work, which causes social life to drop off, as everyone’s suffocating in math equations and essays. This all builds up and can overwhelm. It’s almost like a never ending cycle.
But you might be thinking, “We have breaks? Get it together then and it’ll all be back to normal.” That’s not always the case. People with SAD usually need an actual break; to recharge from the constant stress of school. And getting back into the routine after break is harder than ever.
There is a solution. There is help.
Taking initiative of your mental health can be difficult, but even little steps make a big difference. Keeping an updated planner will help you stay on track. And doing your homework almost immediately after you get it, even if it’s just a few problems, will help decrease the feeling of being overwhelmed. Make sure you get enough sleep at night, but don’t sleep the whole day through. Meditation really helps, no matter how dumb you may think it is. When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, breathe deep and ground yourself. Get outside when you can, get with friends with you can, and work your best. The feeling of sadness is always temporary. Take care of your mind.