Words by Bryonna Manes
The windy hills of Kent can seem like the pure definition of happiness during the summer months. With sunshine splashed across the green grass, rolling through campus and laughter echoing through the streets of downtown, what’s not to love? But what happens when that happiness vanishes, and the Fall Frumps and Winter Woes take over? Our overwhelming sadness is caused by an excess of vitamin C finding itself weakening as the powers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) attempt to overthrow our lives and emotions. I’m here to tell you that it’s OK to be sad, and it’s OK to experience SAD.
If you’re one of the many that find themselves crying at every little thing, getting Level 5 angry at the smallest of events or even if you just lie in bed all day and mope because, dammit, you really don’t feel like doing anything else, ask yourself this: Do all these symptoms tend to heighten in the gloomy months of Ohio’s lovely seasons? If so, you, my friend, may have a case of SAD.
Don’t be alarmed; you will be OK. I promise your hair won’t fall out, your skin won’t turn weird colors and you won’t even have to see your doctor (probably). SAD is a tricky little thing that some say exists while others believe it to be the power of suggestion. Mental Health of America defines SAD as “a mood disorder associated with depression” that causes people to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, mood swings, problems sleeping, lethargy and a loss of sexual appetite more frequently or intensely during the gloomier months of the year, from September through April, peaking in December, January and February. The cause of these depressed moods is due to an increase of melatonin being produced by our bodies. Melatonin is a sleep-related hormone that is produced when we are in the dark. This hormone also tends to cause symptoms of depression. When you pair a lack of vitamin C (buh-bye sunshine) and the increase of melatonin (hello darkness, my old friend), our bodies tend to get a little out of whack, and we just don’t feel like ourselves. Whether it’s scientifically real or not, when the sunshine leaves, the blues waltz into our lives as if they owned the place. There’s no denying that.
So what’s a down-in-the-dumps Kent resident to do? Especially the ladies of Kent because—you guessed it—stated on Mental Health of America’s website, three out of four SAD sufferers are women (add it to the list of treats we get to experience, huh girls?). And even if you’re not a female college student, or maybe even a graduate assistant, you’re not safe either, seeing as ages 18 to 30 are the main age group that experience an onset of SAD.
So, if you’re 18 to 30, female, or really just any human being living in a state that experiences the winter season, or say a state like delightful Ohio that is 75 percent winter and 25 percent every other season, listen up. Below you will find a few symptoms that SAD is known for. Read it, think about it and be honest with yourself about which symptoms you’ve experienced this past winter. Now, do me and yourself a favor, and try a few of these suggestions that I’ve personally tried out and swear (with no scientific backing) usually work.
If you’re faced with ___, try this ___.
Depression. Get moving. Make a kick-ass playlist full of the guilty pleasures you’d never admit you listen to and start dancing. No one’s watching (You remembered to close the door… right?). Getting your blood pumping and your heart racing will knock out that tired feeling depression usually hangs over you. Listening to music and moving your body in a way that makes you feel badass or goofy will release some endorphins (or at least that’s what I tell myself). Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.
Anxiety. You know when you get that tight feeling in your chest or maybe that horrifying gut feeling like you’re going to upchuck? That’s not necessarily normal… that’s what people call anxiety. When your mind races, your palms sweat and you can’t really remember how to breathe, take a second and do this. I know it sounds lame, but try it. Take your thumb and pointer finger and touch them together, making a circle with each hand—similar to when we all used to touch our thumb and pointer finger then flip our hands over and put them on our faces around our eyes like glasses in the third grade. Yeah, do that. Now that you’ve made a fool of yourself and put finger glasses on your face, try touching the tip of each finger to your thumb, alternating each hand. Stay with me here: left hand, pointer finger to thumb. Right hand, pointer finger to thumb. Left hand, middle finger to thumb, right hand, middle finger to thumb. There you go. Keep going: you’re getting the hang of it. Doing this helps the left and right sides of the brain focus and communicate with one another better, alleviating your racing thoughts and sheer panic. It doesn’t have to be noticeable, keep your hands at your sides, or on your lap, and just alternate those hands and fingertips touching your thumb. I know, I know… weird, but you feel better, don’t you?
Overeating. Remember when you tried your hardest to avoid the Freshman Fifteen? Well recycle that same mentality to avoid the winter weight that’s begging to hang out on your tummy rolls, thighs and love handles. It might have good intentions, trying to keep you warm for the winter, but all it’ll really do is make you feel like crap. Not to mention the hard time it’ll give you when spring arrives and you’re still carrying it around with you. Next time you go to grab a bag of chips or a second donut in the morning (That’s right, let yourself have that first one. Treat yo’ self.) try this: Imagine how many push ups it’ll take to get rid of that tenth handful of chips. Or think about how many extra minutes on the treadmill it’ll take to burn off that third donut you didn’t even realize you picked up. I like to imagine little miniature six packs and buff arms sitting on either side of my shoulders, sort of like little angels, telling me right from wrong. Except they’re telling me to put down the almost-empty Pringles can. It’s not about looking a certain way or getting a six pack or the perfect backside; it’s about keeping those arteries clog-free all year round.
Sleep Issues. If you’ve started to let the soothing glow of your laptop screen and familiar sounds of Netflix lull you to bed, falling asleep and staying asleep probably isn’t one of your strong suits (It takes one to know one.) Close the laptop. I mean it: slowly… slowly… there you go. OK, now get into your favorite pajamas, or the nude if you’re one of those people (hope you don’t have a roommate). Figure out if soothing music, maybe some classical or synth/instrumental, is calming to you. If it just keeps you up, then go sans the tunes. If you’re less of an auditory person and more about sight and scents, try turning the lights off and using a favorite lotion. Something with lavender or vanilla is always my go-to. Now just breathe. Yes, it’s the most boring thing ever, but that’s the point. Stop thinking: I can hear your thoughts from here. Stop making lists or reliving horribly embarrassing moments. Just breathe. Are you asleep yet?
If none of these tips work, or maybe these aren’t the symptoms you’re experiencing, hit me up. Send me a tweet or Facebook message—if people still do that aside from my mom—and I’ll brainstorm some more completely biased advice. Or you can consult good ol’ Doctor Google. Just please, stay away from WebMD; we can all go a little crazy there.
Worst comes to worst and you don’t find a fix for your blues, you’re just in luck. April is here and spring is waiting with open arms to hug the SADdness right out of you.