The semester is winding down, finals hang in the distance and my hours studying in the library are beginning to stack up. Around this time each year, I begin an unavoidable battle with myself; struggling to stay motivated, upbeat and mobile. I’m quick to blame my classes but the real culprit of these mood swings? Winter.
From frigid weather to holiday blues, the coming season brings a dose of depression each year, and I’m not the only one feeling down when the temperature drops.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines seasonal affective disorder as a kind of depression that occurs at a certain time each year. For many it’s winter, when the days grow shorter and colder.
Despite the fact that there is no test or clear cut indicator that someone is suffering from the condition, research suggests that there is a science behind SAD.
WCCO News estimates that 1 in 10 Minnesotans suffers from SAD, some of the highest rates in the nation. It could be tied to circadian rhythm. Our bodies operate on an internal clock based on exposure to the sun, so when the days grow shorter often times it throws everything off track.
For me, the winter blues are about more than just the biting chill. The ebb and flow of holiday madness is enough to make just about anyone hide under the covers.
According to the Huffington Post, “the holiday hype” stretches from the end of Halloween through Jan. 2, and it’s full of anticipation and high expectations. We want our holiday dinners to be perfect, our gifts to be wrapped on time, our decor to look just right and the family to put up with one another. In order to make all of that happen, we spend money like it grows on trees.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, it can be harder to get out and be active so people tend to eat more and exercise less during the darker months. The holiday food is often higher in fat and sugar so those few extra pounds won’t help when you’re feeling down.
Despite all of these stressors and high expectations, we’ve been conditioned to believe that everyone should be cheerful all the time because it’s the holidays and the holidays are happy.
Let’s be realistic, here.
Winter is a mix of highs and lows, excitement and stress, snow and ice. At the end of the day, it’s a season that makes a lot of us feel really low, inevitably. We just have to remind ourselves that at the end of it all, there’s one last change: a change of season. Rest assured that when the snow melts away, our mood swings will, too.
Carly Samuelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.