Take students from SAD to glad
David Kerr, assistant professor of psychology, offers tips to circumvent SAD
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 03:11
Living in western Oregon has its perks: beautifully colored autumn leaves, stunning views of Mary’s Peak and Mt. Hood, waterfalls and only a short drive to the coast.
But as winter approaches each year, many of us have to come to terms with the other part of Willamette Valley life: the sun’s extended vacation.
Neighboring Salem and Eugene experience gray skies nearly 60 percent of the time, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
After a while, those clouds can seriously affect sleep, weight and mood.
These effects are collectively known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. It’s a serious disorder that affects mood, lifestyle and self-esteem. Individuals develop SAD when a lack of sunlight leads to seasonal depression.
“I’m a loser.”
“Things are never going to change.”
These are common thoughts which surface when someone is affected by SAD, according to an article by David Kerr, assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University.
SAD can impede motivation, energy levels, concentration, appetite and may lead to fluctuation in weight. It can also affect sleep patterns; those affected might feel lazy and sleep more. If you suffer from SAD, it may be harder than usual to enjoy your favorite activities.
Anyone can feel its effects, whether someone is a native of the Willamette Valley or a newcomer from sunnier regions.
Sarah Jamieson, a junior at OSU who grew up in Seattle and Eugene, is used to gray winters.
“I tried to get down south for college, but it didn’t work out,” Jamieson said. “There comes a point in every winter when I’m very down. I feel like I need to retract, and I get quiet.”
Bethel Elgincolin, a senior at OSU, says she has similar feelings, comparing the weather in Corvallis to life in her home town of Houston.
“In the winter, our coldest would be maybe 60 degrees,” Elgincolin said.
In Corvallis, she doesn’t feel like going out so often.
“I want to stay home more, and if anyone wants to hang out, I prefer that they come over,” Elgincolin said. “I don’t really want to go out as much. I end up sleeping more and, during school days, I won’t go to class sometimes.”
With classes, homework and often jobs, students have enough to wrangle without combating SAD. So what can students do if they think they have SAD?
In his article, Kerr suggested five ways to beat the winter blues:
1) Stay active. Don’t sacrifice physical wellness just because of the weather. Kerr wrote that, “Exercise can be social or meditative and can improve sleep.” Get exercise in at Dixon Recreation Center, or go for a walk or run in the rain.
2) Clock in Zzzs. Be sure to maintain a regular sleep schedule, as sleep regulates hormones. Kerr suggested that the best sleep habit to have is a consistent schedule.
3) Say “Yes.” Don’t say no to socializing. When depressed, it’s easier to stay home and avoid social settings, but Kerr suggested this will perpetuate depressing, negative thoughts.
4) Get by with help from friends. Being around friends and family is one of the best ways to combat depression. Kerr wrote, “Make an extra effort to call or spend time with people when you need a lift.”
5) Watch the drinks. “Alcohol is a depressant — so it is not a great antidote for depression,” Kerr advised. Alcohol can easily impede on our mental, physical and social wellness in ways similar to SAD.
Another way to avoid SAD is to get more sunlight. Oregon State’s commitment to student physical and mental wellness has led to an initiative to provide sunlamps for student use. Students can access a sunlamp in one of three ways:
1) The Valley Library has four sunlamps for students to reserve for two hours at a time.
2) Counseling and Psychological Services has four lamps that students can rent at $11 for two weeks.
3) The Mind Spa has a sunlamp that a student can use during a half-hour appointment.
Michele Ribeiro, a representative from Student Health Services, noticed a marked improvement in the moods of people who use sunlamps.
“What’s great about the lights, is even people that don’t experience real shifts in mood where they get some depressive symptoms benefit from the daylight therapy,” Ribeiro said. “Basically, some of the learning outcomes were people felt more relaxed, they felt more energized, and they felt like the tension was relieved.”
Madeline Duthie and Jodie Davaz, contributors