Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as a student

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Health Assured team

07 September 2022

According to recent statistics, approximately 2 million people in the UK struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

 

As a student, you may have spent the summer with family, working part-time or hanging out with friends. As a result, you will have spent a lot of time being socially active.

However, as we move into the winter months, the weather gets colder, the days get shorter, and these social interactions may dwindle.

 

What is season affective disorder (SAD)? 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that people experience during a particular time of the year. It’s more than the winter blues or a feeling of sadness – it’s a major depressive disorder brought about by the lengthening periods of darkness.

SAD can lead to lethargy, low energy, difficulty waking up in the mornings and decreased concentration. It’s a serious issue that can drastically affect your mood and studies during the winter. 

 

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Due to their psychological nature, mental health problems such as SAD are often invisible to the naked eye. As a result, there may not always be a clear sign that you are dealing with a mental illness.

The symptoms associated with SAD are very similar to those of depression. And most people will experience these symptoms at a particular time each year. Here are some of the common signs to look out for: 

  • Persistent low mood
  • Fluctuations in weight 
  • Constant lack of energy 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness 
  • Sleeping problems (oversleeping or struggle sleeping) 

The symptoms of SAD vary from person to person, and while the above is not an exhaustive list, it highlights some common symptoms. It’s important to remember that you are not alone in your struggles; many other students are struggling with SAD - the best thing you can do is find techniques that help you cope with and overcome these symptoms. 

 

How to cope with seasonal affective disorder

Dealing with SAD can be overwhelming for any student, but there are ways to relieve the symptoms. Having a coping mechanism to fall back on during tough times can transform your experience of SAD.  That’s why we have provided a list of techniques to help you through these difficult times:

 

Increase the light around you 

Being a student during the winter months can be difficult. You might wake up when it's dark, and by the time you return from class, it's dark again. This perpetual state of darkness can be unsettling. It can make you feel like there isn't enough time to complete your daily tasks. This can lead to a lack of motivation and impact your studies. To prevent this, you should try rearranging your bedroom to maximise the natural light. If you can't do this, many people dealing with SAD enjoy a SAD lamp or lightbox – a form of light therapy that uses fluorescent lights to simulate natural light.

 

Self-care

Student life can be exciting but also tiring – you may have a range of commitments, deadlines to meet, friends to see or playing for a sports team. If you take all these things and then add the symptoms of SAD, this can be overwhelming for any person. So, it’s important to remember that these feelings won’t last forever.

Self-care can help you make peace with negative emotions when they arise. It can also help cultivate feelings of self-compassion and release tension in the body. Self-care can involve a range of activities. It could include mindfulness exercises, writing down emotions or meeting up with friends. These moments of relaxation and reflection can help you find space from overwhelming feelings.

 

Prioritise your social life 

It is necessary to keep on top of your coursework and perform to the best of your ability. But, it is equally important to keep on top of your social life. You have to create a healthy study-life balance. Your friends and family play a vital role in protecting your mental health, helping you foster a feeling of belonging and purpose. As a result, you must spend as much time as possible with these people, especially when you feel low and need a boost. They will appreciate it as much as you do.

                                                                     

Physical wellbeing 

Taking care of your physical health can help keep the blues at bay. Make sure you’re eating nutritious foods, regularly exercising and getting enough sleep. Group exercise classes can also boost mental health. But any physical activity you partake in will help release endorphins and raise your energy levels. When bouts of depression hit, get moving and see if it helps. 

 

Seek support

If you feel like the above techniques aren’t working for you (and you feel ready to do so), you should consider speaking to a mental health professional. Counselling can help you process the difficult emotions you might be experiencing. The counsellor can provide a listening ear during tough times. They can help you to find coping strategies that work for you. It can be scary to reach out, but the bravest thing you can do is tackle these problems before they become any worse.

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