With the stressful and demanding lifestyle of college, many times S.A.D. Can strike during the dark winter months in the dorms. If your college is anything like mine, there is not much in the way of creature comforts. So, to keep Seasonal Affective Disorder and its nasty symptoms at bay and out of your life here are 10 tips.
Wake up on Time
I know, I know. Waking up is one of the hardest parts of the day. After a long night studying or a rowdy weekend with friends, departing from the nice warm embrace of the bed seems tragic and cruel. Despite this, its important to get out before the afternoon rolls around. If you sleep in past noon, your body is missing out on a valuable resource. The morning light for some reason is one of the best "kinds" of light. Studies have shown that morning light is more effective at beating the winter blues than midday light or evening light. So get up out of bed and enjoy the sunshine!
Last time I checked Pizza and Beer are not gold mines of nutrition. These kinds of foods (and a decent amount of drinks...) are high in carbs and fats. These are great comfort foods but that it. They may feel great for a while but I guarantee you, after an hour you will begin to feel sluggish and maybe bloated. This is because your body is overwhelmed with carbs. A spike in carbohydrate intake can make the body feel tired. If you get tired this could cause you to nap. Which leads me to the next tip.
Ok, get up on time is one thing, but no naps?! This seems like torture! Napping can cause the biological clock to get out of sync. The Circadian rhythm, the mater clock-work behind sleeping and waking, can be impacted by our behavior. Sleeping at irregular times can cause this delicate mechanism to get messed up. The effects of this are felt throughout the body. Hormonal production can be screwed up, Normal sleeping patterns can get sabotaged, and activities such as studying or hanging out with friends can take a hit. If you do need a little recharge session, take a power nap. A power nap is a micro-nap that doesn't last more than 20 minutes. This is enough time for the body to calm down and "reset" to a relaxed state. During this short amount of time, the mind will not enter the true sleep stages of REM, leaving those important sleep cycles for later.
Take a vitamin or herbal supplement
Sometimes there isn't what we need to function in what we eat everyday. Its a good idea to fill in the gaps in our nutritional intake by taking a daily vitamin. So if you aren't feeling those huge horse pill that they have for adults, get the fun kiddie one. The sweet dinosaur or animal shaped ones would be better than nothing. Kid always get the cool stuff...Lunchables, recess, footie pajamas...Anyways get that vitamin and take it. You'll help your body replenish its nutritional reserves. Duh...this is a good thing.
Purchase a Light Box or Lamp
Would you believe me if I told you that light on the back of the knee can have a positive impact on the chemical balance of your body? Well its true. An experiment conducted by exposing the back of the knee to a bright light affected the serotonin production in the body. This has the indirect effect of influencing mood and depression. Light is a powerful tool in combating the lousy feelings that come with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Set up the lamp on a timer to turn on during the morning hours. Give yourself about two hours of this light if you can. The morning is the best time for the body to absorb light. If you can make this happen, do as much as you can. Even 30 minutes is enough to have a positive impact. Next, extend the day by running the lamp for around 2 hours in the evening. The overall goal is to expose your body to 12-14 hours of good solid light. Doing this consistently for 3-4 days should yield positive results. After 3-4 weeks of this routine you should be feeling really good.
So you might think that this is bogus or you might already know the benefits of meditation or you might be somewhere in between. Regardless of your take on meditation there are some interesting facets of this practice. Research on Buddhist monks have shown that through the concentration of thought, amazing things can happen. Stress can be lifted. Happiness and joy (when was the last time you felt joy?) can be found. Unpleasant thoughts are kicked out. Pretty much any mental malady can be eliminated or controlled using meditation techniques The mind can become your canvas. Not religious? Don't worry. There are many non-denominational practices and routines that can be used to the same effect.
It is important to release tension through expression. As humans we are geared to be socially active in some way or another. It is through expression that we feel connected to others. Play with clay, get some crayons and tell your evil 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Grouch that you WON'T stay in the lines. For the more journalistically inclined, keep a diary. The opposite of a diary is a noctuary btw... Stay creative in your own way either to stay positive or distracted from the daily grind.
January and February are harsh times, especially for those who are struggling with S.A.D. But this shouldn't be seen as a limitation for living a happy life. When the going gets rough and the world seems to be falling apart. Your friends are fighting with you. Your professor is being unreasonable. There is trouble with the parents. Anything like this can cause you to become defensive or aggressive. Remember this simple rule:
Your reaction to hardship is yours and yours alone.
You are the one with the power during a hard time. While you may or may not be able to sway the situation externally, you are the complete overlord when it comes to your reaction. If it doesn't come naturally, you can be in complete control with patience and effort. So when things are going south remember that you are the boss of your reaction. You have the power to change from reacting in an aggressive or defensive way and become a key player in the situation with powerful resolve and intelligence. Don't let your emotions get the better of you and don't rely on the gut flight or fight reactions. You have the power!
Talk to your campus counselor or ministry
There are professionals out there who are trained and eager to help. They have chosen this career path to help others suffering from any number of issues, including Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is for the guys...its OK to ask for help. Asking for help when you need it is more respectable and responsible than ignoring the problem or trying to "tough it out". Believe me. If you want to fix the problem, just suck it up and get some REAL help. You'll find that the staff will be more than happy to help you. (its their job, by the way...)
If you are currently on the "straight and narrow" or just wandering around, seek out some assistance from the local ministry. These men and women are following a calling in life to help others. Along the way they have learned how to help those who are depressed or going through a hard time. If you aren't religious many times its just good to talk to somebody regardless of religious affiliation.
Enjoy the arts, music, or film
College is hard but it does not have to be harder during the winter time. Try using these tips to ward of the blues.