As the temperature continues to drop and each forecast seems to bring the news of an upcoming blizzard or polar vortex, it is important to prioritize oneself. When people prioritize themselves, it can help them evaluate their goals, and where the focus is in their lives.
Prioritizing oneself can be even more important during the winter months. Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression or low mood that is related to the seasons, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. Some of the symptoms of SAD include a lack of energy, oversleeping, appetite changes and having difficulty concentrating. Obviously, these symptoms are not in tune with a fast-paced and often stressful college environment.
According to the American Family Physician, between 4-6 percent of individuals have winter depression, and another 10 to 20 percent may have mild symptoms of SAD. This percentage of individuals includes students, too, and might leave this specific population of people more at risk because of the high stress and independence that college brings.
There are many factors that can increase depression or low mood during the seemingly endless winter months. First, the sun setting so early in the afternoon results in a lack of vitamin D. To encourage vitamin D intake, many individuals often use light therapy. Sometimes known as a “happy lamp,” individuals can sit in front of a light visor or a light box each day for 30 minutes. This technique has been proven to elevate mood, as it mimics light from the sun, something that is clearly lacking during the winter. Vitamin D supplements can also be a beneficial option.
Self care is also a vital step to help cure the winter blues and prioritize oneself. Self care is unique to each individual, and can include exercise, eating one’s favorite foods, sleep, being with positive people or leaving time to journal and be alone. The options and opportunities to break routine extend off campus across the city.
Exercise can be an important tool because it increases the amount of endorphins in the body, often elevating mood by interacting with receptors in the brain that reduce pain. Hitting the gym after a long and stressful day can actually improve mood and self-confidence, according to the Mayo Clinic. Yoga can also be beneficial. At Marquette, the 707 Hub offers free evening yoga sessions almost every day of the week. The Rec Center also offers free yoga sessions and yoga sculpt, which is typically a more intense yoga class that involves a workout with weights.
The Counseling Center on campus is also a beneficial resource to take advantage of. It allows students to make appointments that fit in with their schedules, and talk therapy is often a good tool for students undergoing stress or looking for a third-party individual to talk through issues with. Marquette includes the Counseling Center, so students might as well take advantage of the resource.
So, as midterm exam season rapidly approaches and February slowly but surely passes by, students should take advantage of resources offered on and off campus. They can go to cozy new coffee houses, and do things that feel good. Students can try out a yoga class at the 707 Hub, or go to the Domes for a taste of spring greenery and warmth. Feeling the winter blues is normal, and sometimes it is okay to not be okay.