How to cope when you want to mope

ways to combat seasonal affective disorder

As the warmer days begin to end and Colorado buckles down for another six-month winter, a significant amount of people start to struggle with more than just digging their cars out of the snow.  

Seasonal Affective Disorder, appropriately abbreviated SAD, is a form of depression that directly correlates to the changing of seasons. It is estimated that around 10 million Americans suffer from the disorder. The majority of people are only affected during the fall and winter months, but depressive episodes have been linked to the seasons of spring and summer as well. 

Daylight savings time is the kickstarter for people with SAD, as the darker hours are not only hard to cope with in themselves, but also signal a majority of other triggering events that have to do with winter.  

Midterms and finals bring a tremendous amount of stress to students even without the hardships of SAD, and the holiday season is also one of the biggest triggers with people struggling. The mental toll these events can take is critical to the severity SAD can bring to the lives of people it affects.  

Feeling better may seem hopeless until the days get longer and the weather gets warmer again, which can be a difficult thing to predict in Colorado, but there are some things people can do to improve their state in the meantime. 

The most recommended way to fight SAD is light therapy. Light therapy is a treatment in which an individual is exposed to a lightbox for an hour each day upon waking up and during the evenings after the sun has set. The box is meant to simulate natural sunlight, tricking the brain into thinking it is daytime. Although light therapy can be expensive when administered professionally, there are lightboxes available on Amazon. Salt lamps are also said to help with light therapy and keeping the brain stimulated throughout the dark winter evenings. 

Psychotherapy, or just regular therapy, can help too. CU Denver offers a limited number of free sessions of counseling for all students who feel the need to talk. And students don’t just have to be affected by SAD to make an appointment. The Counseling Center is located on the fourth floor of the Tivoli building in office 454. Call or go online to schedule an appointment. 

The most fun but probably most unreasonable way to treat seasonal depression is to go on vacation somewhere warm. Perhaps as a holiday gift to oneself or from a friend or family member who understands the struggle, taking a trip can be a great way to break out of routine and get a nice tan. 

A lot of coping with SAD is just like coping with regular depression. Meditation, self-talk, reaching out, antidepressants and exercise are all ways to combat the effects of all different kinds of depression. 

Reach out to people, support friends and family going through the same thing. The most important thing to remember is that winter doesn’t last forever. Daylight savings will always end, and the weather will always get warmer. No matter how miserable the Winter gets, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Literally. 

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