Seasonal depression, the SAD truth and how to deal with it


It happens every year. Summer ends, school starts, you work hard and think you’ve finally hit your stride. Then it creeps in, little by little. In September, you feel a little strange, in October, the walls are closing in, in November, you’re on your last leg, by December, it’s a blur and you just don’t see the point in trying anymore.

Illustration by MaddieGenoways

Why does that happen? Why does it feel like there’s a vacuum attached to your head sucking all the good out? I’ve got your answer, or at least one of them: seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD or plain old seasonal depression. We know it, we hate it, so how on earth do we deal with it?

First we have to understand what seasonal depression is. Scientifically, it is caused by an imbalance of serotonin and melatonin in the brain resulting from a lack of sunlight. In layman’s terms, as we see less and less sunlight and miss out on the vitamins it provides, we are chemically coded to feel worse. Thanks, human brain!

Seasonal depression usually manifests itself in exactly what it sounds like: depression. The stay-in-bed, weight-on-your-chest, low energy bummer in all its glory. The severity varies from person to person, from a serious case of the wintertime blues to the need for medication and therapy. I fall somewhere between the two, as do nearly 10 million other Americans.

For severe cases, people affected by seasonal depression can be hospitalized, put on medication, or receive specialized light therapy to simulate real sunshine. But for less serious cases, treatments are relatively simple.

Ms. Faithe Patrick, a mental health professional here at Marian, recommends staying physically active as a method of keeping depression at bay. Activities like taking walks, exercising, doing yoga, drawing in coloring books or journaling can help to alleviate symptoms and keep your mind occupied. With depression, it’s easy to fall behind, so holding yourself accountable and staying on top of work are essential skills to maintain. 

In my own experience, when I feel seasonal depression creeping in, I make a point to talk to someone every day about how I’m feeling-usually a friend or my sister. Sometimes, just saying “I felt bad today, but tomorrow will be better,” can help. It’s easier to keep going, knowing that someone cares and understands how you’re feeling, even if there isn’t much they can do about it. 

I try to stay outside for as long as there’s light to try and counteract the biological aspect. Never underestimate the power of good music and a long walk. On days when I can’t be outdoors, I try to maintain a healthy light cycle inside. Think of how cats find the nearest beam of sunlight and nap there. That’s kind of what I do but less graceful. It’s much easier to open the blinds and sit in the sun than it is to bundle up for the cold. Not getting enough sunlight interferes with your sleep schedule and keeps you feeling tired all the time, which is why making the most of what you have is so crucial.

I am not a professional, and I don’t know your story, but I’ve done my fair share of research, and I do know that a lot of people care about you, even when your mind tells you otherwise. Your brain is a part of you, and it needs to be taken care of just as much as the rest of your body. Seasonal depression means your brain is tired, and hasn’t taken its vitamins. Except you can’t pop a couple Flintstone gummies and call it a day, you have to take care of that part of yourself before you can start to get better.

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