How to Help Students Prevent Winter Depression

Larisa Koshkina/public domain.

Published December 23, 2018

While most students look forward to winter break, there’s a looming problem that could explain why they don’t feel like doing anything during this much anticipated free time. The sudden change in season and the weather has a massive impact on how students feel. The “winter blues” is real, and its high time that both students and universities do something about it.

What is Winter Depression?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of seasonal depression linked to less exposure to direct sunlight. The condition is characterized by sadness and anxiety, but those who suffer from it often experience other symptoms that cause them to perform much lower than their optimal levels. These symptoms include difficulty walking, chronic fatigue, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, increased appetite for sweets and starches, and lack of interest in socializing.

What follows these symptoms is depression, causing students to become less creative and productive. It’s not hard to imagine how these effects can interfere with their personal and school life. SAD can start as early as the high school years, but college students are at a higher risk because they often stay up late and deal with larger workloads.

What Steps Can Be Taken to Combat SAD?

Seasonal and weather changes are inevitable, but there are plenty of ways that can help treat and prevent winter depression. What’s most important is to spread awareness about this alarming albeit less talked about the condition. Universities should conduct talks about SAD to inform students about what it is, its symptoms, and how they can cope. Many students may not realize they have SAD, which causes them to continue the ill habits that could compound the problem.

Students should be taught about the importance of getting direct natural sunlight, preferably early in the morning. Lack of sunlight exposure affects the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls sleep. Melatonin production increases while serotonin production decreases, ultimately leading to sleeping difficulty and affecting a person’s mood and appetite.

Since a student’s workload usually increases over the course of the semester, it’s almost impossible not to sleep in. In cases where students can’t go outside early in the morning, exposure to more indoor light can help. There are light fixtures specially designed to deliver the right light levels that offer therapeutic benefits. Universities can also provide light therapy by installing SAD lamps, which are lamps that mimic direct sunlight. According to experts, exposure to these lamps for 30 minutes per day can go a long way in preventing the winter blues.

Universities should also be more considerate of the workload their students have to deal with during the darker days of the year. While giving assignments, research papers, and exams are inevitable, educators may plan strategically in advance to ensure that they’re not torturing their students by handing out a truckload of requirements at the same time.

Students who suffer from winter depression find it difficult to focus on one task, let alone a ton of school work. Online assignment services such as Assignment Expert can prove particularly beneficial for students with winter depression. It frees up their time, allowing them to complete their requirements while addressing the symptoms of SAD and hopefully recover from it once the winter break comes to an end.

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