Winter blues: How routines help me through them

15 Jan 2018
By Thea, Writer at Student Minds

When even the sun decides to pack it in at 4:45pm, it can be very hard to persuade yourself not to do the same.

The winter months can sometimes feel like a long, uphill battle when all you want to do is wrap up in a duvet or hang out with a dog.

The winter months can sometimes feel like a long, uphill battle.

But why does this happen? Is everything really less fun than staying in bed, or are we overreacting?

How it feels to have the winter blues

The good news? No, you're not overreacting. (And yes, most things are now less fun than staying in bed. Sorry. Check back in March when going outside is good again). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – also called winter depression, winter blues and seasonal depression – is very real, and characterised by a period of depression that occurs around the same time every year.

Symptoms of SAD include:

  • persistent low mood
  • loss of interest in hobbies
  • feeling antisocial
  • anxiety
  • stress
  • overeating
  • poor concentration
  • reduced sex drive
  • crying loudly in the library
  • an uncontrollable desire to lie face down on the floor and listen to Marvin's Room by Drake.

The last two are not on the NHS website.

Why does SAD happen?

Well, the science still isn't clear. But researchers agree that those who suffer from it have one thing in common:

We are all very sensitive to light.

With less sunlight in the winter months, our brains want us to hibernate. Lethargy kicks in and everything feels a lot harder than it did back in August.

What can you do about SAD?

Again, science isn't really sure. But there's a wide spectrum of severity, and how you deal with SAD depends on how much you suffer.

There are some simple things you can do:

  • Stick to your normal routine and self-care checklist. Eat right, exercise, and sleep well.
  • Get out of bed and do the things you enjoy. Avoid oversleeping as this can make you feel worse.
  • Consider getting a light box and vitamin D spray to trick your brain and body into thinking it's summer. Again, the science on these isn't conclusive – but I have, and love, both items.

It helps to talk

If you ever feel as though you’re not coping, speak to your GP as soon as possible.

Your university also has a safe, non-judgmental counselling service where you can speak to somebody in confidence. And the student listening service Nightline is there to help you.

The winter months can sometimes feel like a long, uphill battle.

Student Minds is the UK's student mental health charity. They empower students and members of the university community to look after their own mental health, support others and create change. Find out more at the Student Minds website.

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By Thea
Thea is a Student Minds blogger and social anthropology student at Cambridge.