Four tips for coping with symptoms of seasonal depression on Wake Forest’s campus

Seasonal affective disorder affects 10 million Americans every year


Katie Fox

In the winter months, there is less sunlight, which contributes to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Contributing writer Collyn Ballentine writes that it is important to take advantage of the sunlight, like going for a walk on Hearn Plaza.

Collyn Ballentine, Contributing Writer

According to Psychology Today, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects around 10 million Americans each year. While not everyone suffers from SAD, symptoms of seasonal depression are still fairly common during the winter months. When the holiday spirit has dwindled at the beginning of the spring semester, many people — Wake Forest students included — find themselves feeling down more than usual.

Fortunately, there is hope for those who are struggling with the “winter blues.” As someone who tends to feel depressed during the winter months, I have developed several coping mechanisms over the past few years that have helped me get through this time.

1. Get moving

My first tip is to exercise four to five days a week — even if it is for a short period of time. Going to the gym can feel like a daunting task, especially when you’re in a tough mental place. Thankfully, there are many other ways to prioritize exercise in your life. For example, a brisk walk on the Reynolda trails or a group fitness class with a friend at the gym can drastically improve your mental health.

According to an article published by the Mayo Clinic in 2017, “regular exercise may help ease depression and anxiety by releasing feel-good endorphins and taking your mind off worries.” While I sometimes do not have the energy to complete a full workout, even minimal exercise can have exponential effects on my mood.

2. Prioritize a healthy sleeping schedule

I often find that there are endless opportunities for Wake Forest students to engage in unhealthy sleep behaviors. Between homework and studying on the weekdays and social events on the weekends, I find myself prioritizing school and my social life over a good night of rest. Unfortunately, this lack of consistency in my sleep schedule makes me much less productive, have less energy for social activities and feel generally less happy. Putting sleep above other obligations has reduced my stress, helped my performance in school and made me a more enjoyable person for my friends to be around.

3. Get more sunlight

My third tip is to try and expose yourself to sunlight as early and often as possible. The Cleveland Clinic states that getting more sunlight throughout the day can help improve symptoms of seasonal depression. I like to enjoy the sun right after I wake up in the morning to help me feel more awake. According to the CDC, “getting bright light shortly after waking up may help you feel more alert.”

If I do not open my blinds in the morning or go outside early enough, I feel groggy and less alert throughout the day. Some ways to get more sun are to open your blinds as you get ready, leave your dorm building after getting up and move your regular activities, such as homework and exercise, outdoors.

4. Reach out for help

While connecting with close friends and family can be helpful, sometimes you may need additional support — and that’s okay! Wake Forest has many resources for students such as the Counseling Centerthe Office of Diversity and Inclusionthe Women’s Centerthe LGBTQ+ Center and the Intercultural Center. They are all wonderful resources for students! Some of these resources offer more or different kinds of support than others, so be sure to look into what each can bring you.

While these self-care tips can be applied and improve the quality of life of most people, it is not a cure for various mood disorders. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a diagnosable medical condition that requires the treatment of a doctor. If you believe you may have this condition, please contact your preferred healthcare provider for an evaluation.

If you are concerned about another Wake Forest community member, you can submit a referral to the Wake Forest CARE Team. The submission of this form will connect the referred person to the office, which can help struggling individuals find resources both on and off campus.