How to beat the Winter Blues

Fifth Graders learning how to snow shoe at the Wildlife Refuge Center.

Fifth Graders learning how to snow shoe at the Wildlife Refuge Center.

‘Tis the season of snow and fast-approaching holidays filled with family and friends.  It’s a happy time for many people… but not for everyone.  The beginning of the winter months can mean a rise in anxiety, changes in sleeping patterns, overeating, and increased irritability as it begins to get dark earlier.  This condition is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) but also comes in a milder variety simply referred to as the Winter Blues.  The average person that suffers from SAD is female between the ages of 18 and 30 (MentalHealthAmerica.net) which sounds like a number of St. Kate’s students.  Between changing weather and with finals just around the corner, it is the time of year where it is especially important to take care of our mind and bodies.  With that, here are 3 ways to ward off the Winter Blues!

  1. Get Out, Go Exercise.  Katies may continue to take advantage of the Butler Center on the St. Paul campus through January, but if you want to have a change of scenery as you move, there are options. Even in Minnesota’s icy and snowy environment, it’s still a nice place to explore in the winter.  Come visit the Wildlife Reserve in Bloomington, Minn. not far from the Mall of America.  Walk over the frozen marshes looking for animal tracks and spot the various animals that don’t hibernate each winter.  Snow shoes are available for those who would like to try exploring that way.The Mall of America has the Mayo Clinic Miracle Mile that anyone may go and walk around as many times as they please.  This option is good for anyone who wants to get moving, but doesn’t want to freeze in Minnesota’s arctic tundra.
  2. Light Therapy.  Part of what causes SAD or the Winter Blues in individuals is the decreased amount of sunlight during the day.  Less sunlight leads to circadian rhythms that aren’t in synch, which explains lack of sleep or oversleeping, depending on the affected person.  Less sunlight can also cause lower levels of serotonin in the brain, which leads to symptoms of depression.  Increasing sunlight exposure can help reduce the Winter Blues.  One way to make sure that you get the sunlight you need is to use a light box.  Using a light box for 30-60 minutes in the morning every day during the winter can work wonders on one’s mood.  The Counseling Center on the St. Paul campus has a few light boxes that students may check out for one week at a time.  The Counseling Center’s January hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.  If you would like to check out a light, call 651-690-6805.  If a box light is not a viable option (too expensive or unavailable), making it a priority to be exposed to the actual sun, as opposed to the artificial sunlight of the box light, is a good alternative.  Exposure in the morning is ideal, because this will help reset your circadian rhythm and help you sleep normally, but even making the room you spend a lot of time in more open to sunlight helps increase serotonin in your brain.
This is an example of a light box.

This is an example of a light box.

3. Be Social.  This time of year is perfect for being social as this is the time when old friends start returning home from their own adventures, families start to visit each other to celebrate the holidays, and as the semester comes to a close, students have a little more time than they did before.  Interacting with friends and family helps boost your mood.

These are good solutions for mild cases of SAD, but if you feel that even with these strategies that you’re still struggling, please contact your preferred mental health clinic, whether that is the on-campus Counseling Center or a therapist that you know and trust.  They are here to help you.

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