By Hana Futai and Keira Quinlan-Nardella, Opinions writers
graphic by Caitlin Ang
When we think of winter, the thought of shorter days filled with frigid temperatures is one of the first things that come to our minds. For some, this abrupt change in weather triggers a chemical change in the brain leading to seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), where individuals experience symptoms of depression throughout seasonal changes, most commonly during the fall and winter seasons.
From feeling unmotivated in school or sports to withdrawing from social situations and fighting excess fatigue, the symptoms of seasonal depression echo those of the stereotypical “standards” of depression. Even though these symptoms may just last a few months of the year, we must take this phenomenon as seriously as we do depression, which still isn’t enough.
Many adults and teens discount these symptoms of depression as “moodiness” or typical teenage behaviors when in reality, it is harmful to ignore these warnings of a more serious condition. It doesn’t help that at school, peers often joke about being depressed.
This may be because many teens have been taught to trivialize depression due to how common it is in society. Although many claim that what they are saying is just a joke and isn’t meant to be offensive, it is important to understand that these simple words can be degrading towards students who are struggling with mental health issues. Seemingly lighthearted and simple phrases can have a greater impact on others than you may realize in the moment.
Millions of Americans suffer from SAD, and most let it go unrecognized, so it’s important to notice the warning signs for yourself and others. For many individuals who are experiencing seasonal depression or general depression, they often find it difficult to maintain a regular schedule and find joy in everyday life.
It’s important to take breaks as you need them and not blame yourself if you don’t understand why you’re feeling a certain way. It’s okay to spend time for yourself when you need it, in our chaotic world we need to prioritize our emotional and mental health. Additionally, understanding specific “thinking traps” and patterns of thoughts and the way your mind works when you experience certain emotions is a helpful way to reflect. If you find yourself beginning to experience these feelings, try these strategies to prevent yourself from falling deeper into this depression.
Another strategy is to prioritize social activities. Although it may be difficult, going out to social events can help put aside your negative feelings and be present. Being with friends, even if it’s just a brief conversation, offers an opportunity to take stress off of your back and lighten your mood.
If you notice a friend not applying themselves to things they used to enjoy, canceling plans frequently and seeming sluggish or tired, educate yourself to the best of your ability using reliable sources, and have a conversation with them. Although this may not be easy, sometimes even a smile or hug could help tell a friend they’re not alone.
We need to change our perspective on seasonal depression. Everyone experiences different symptoms, so not all strategies work on everyone. It is crucial that we strive to be more empathetic and accepting towards all.
As a society, we should aim to create a supportive community where people are able to gain the courage to speak up about their experiences and seek help, and we must be there to offer that help.