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Jan 28 2018
by Jessica Vuong

A College Student's Guide to Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Jessica Vuong - Jan 28 2018

It's that time of the year, when we all go back to school in the winter and some of us are faced with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Dealing with assignments and deadlines is sad enough, but when you have to deal with SAD too, things can get overwhelming.

What is SAD?

SAD can best be described as a "seasonal depression" mood disorder caused by imbalances in our bodies due to lack of sunlight outside during the dreary, cold winter months. Most people who experience SAD start to feel the symptoms during the fall and into the winter months. According to Mayo Clinic, common symptoms associated with SAD are feelings of depression, loss of interest in activities, low energy, sleeping problems, difficulty concentrating, feelings of hopelessness, etc. 

What are the causes of SAD?

There are several reasons why a person may be experiencing SAD. As winter comes, the days get shorter and darker, so the lack of sunlight throws off your biological clock and reduces your body's levels of serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a chemical in your brain which regulates your mood, and melatonin is a chemical that regulates your sleep and mood. You can imagine how off balance one would be when their mood and sleep is out of whack. As people experience less serotonin production in their bodies, they're less able to regulate their moods, which might trigger SAD. On the contrary, our bodies tend to overproduce melatonin in the winter months, which makes you sleepier and more sluggish throughout the day. 

Products for SAD

Now that we're aware of what SAD is and how it affects our lives and mentality, here are some nifty products you can invest in to help you overcome SAD.

Light therapy is a major part of treating SAD. It's when you expose yourself to light using a special light box or lamp. These devices imitate natural sunlight indoors to trigger and regulate the serotonin and melatonin levels in your body, while putting your body's circadian rhythm back into balance. Light therapy isn't reserved only for those who experience SAD, but has also been proven to help those with depression as well. Because these lamps aren't exactly cheap, I recommend that you speak to a health professional before purchasing one to know which one would work best for your symptoms. The lamps available on Amazon range in size so you can choose a small, portable one or a full-on tall, adjustable lamp to set up in your living room. 

1. Verilux HappyLight Liberty 10,000 LUX Light Therapy Lamp


Get it here for $89.95.

2. Sphere Gadget Technologies 10,000 Lux Energy Light Lamp


Get it here for $54.99.

3. Duronic SADV1 Light Therapy Box


Get it here for $59.99.

4. Circadian Optics Light Therapy Lamp 


Get it here for $59.99.

5. Northern Light Technology Flamingo 10,000 Lux Light Therapy Floor Lamp


Get it here for $299.99.

In addition to making the environment around you brighter using light lamps, another way to handle SAD is to exercise regularly. Exercise decreases your stress and anxiety levels, both of which contribute to SAD.

Psychotherapy is another way to cope with SAD. This is when you speak with a psychotherapist, who identifies patterns in your negative thinking and helps you replace those negative thoughts with positive ways of coping and relaxation methods. There is also medication to help with SAD, but as always, it's important to speak to a medical professional for advice beforehand. 

The severity of SAD ranges from person to person. If you're having trouble dealing with SAD, know that you don't have to deal with it alone. Seek out a friend or family member to talk to or a mental health counselor to guide you through it!

Lead Image Credit: Jad Limcaco via Unsplash

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Jessica Vuong - University of California, Davis

Jessica is currently attending UC Davis and majoring in Managerial Economics. She was vice-president of teensReach, a community service organization, and has competed in several SJPL art & design contests. She loves coffee, sarcasm, and rainy weather. Follow her on instagram: @jsscvng | pinterest: jessvjess | VSCO: jessvjess

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