It’s 8 a.m. and your alarm goes off. You open one eye and then the other just enough to finally shut the snooze that’s been running since 7 a.m. You may be running late, but it’s only Monday and you’ll have another four chances this week to be on time.
On your way to class you realize that the first espresso didn’t help you too much.
Your week seems never ending and your weekends are just not long enough. You look around and realize you’re not the only one with a gloomy look on your face, and that’s the silver lining. You’re officially experiencing the winter blues.
To help you diagnose your level of the winter blues and offer helpful advice we have consulted Irene Petsopoulis, a psychologist at Concordia University’s counseling and development department, who gladly offered her expertise.
According to Petsopoulis, the winter blues is like a state of depression, mainly during the winter months. Usually it starts in the autumn and can persist up to early spring. If you are acquainted with seasonal affective disorder, then the winter blues could be considered as its lesser variant.
“The cause of winter blues is mainly considered as being the lack of light during the winter period; consequently, the insufficiency of light is causing an instability of melatonin levels, and this … has certain effects on your mood,” she said.
It’s important that you notice the signs and symptoms that are characteristic of the winter blues. “Generally you feel a lack of energy, it’s difficult to wake up in the morning, you have a feeling that you cannot catch up with daily activities. It might also be observed as a feeling of self-blame (you might attribute to yourself for being unsuccessful in your tests, exams, workouts) which is a wrong approach,” said Petsopoulis.
Furthermore, some of us may experience unfamiliar cravings such as preferences for sweet snacks or carbohydrates.
As to the frequency of the winter blues in the Concordia community, Petsopoulis said that “it’s not an uncommon phenomenon. It certainly doesn’t meet the same levels as in U.S.A., which estimates an incidence of about 25 per cent of college students experiencing the symptoms of the winter blues”.
She mentions that students may not experience every symptom of the winter blues. More often than not, they come with a few complaints that match the characteristics of it. Thankfully Petsopoulis offered some practical advice on how to deal with the most common symptoms.
Considering these blues are caused by the lack of light in the cold winter months, the first advice is to get more sunlight exposure. You can do that by spending more time outside during the less chilly days and, if you’re courageous enough, even exercising outside would be quite helpful. You don’t need to spend long hours like in the gym, only a couple of minutes of a heart pumping workout is enough. Sometimes going for a walk or being with friends for a couple of hours can be sufficient. It may be difficult, but you should try to wake early in the morning so as not to lose those precious sunny hours.
Another quick reminder would be to eat right and incorporate vitamin D in your diet. Be sure to include more fruits and vegetables than usual and try not to skip a meal. Some of the best fruits and vegetables you should include in your winter diet are pomegranates, brussels sprouts, squash, kiwis as well as some good old fashion oatmeal and chicken soup.
Petsopoulis’ most important advice to students is to seek help. “You should never ever stay locked in your room, thinking that this might pass by itself,” she said. “It would be more productive to speak with your friends, to speak about what you are feeling, how you are dealing with, whether it works or not. Ask for assistance in our department. We are here for you.”
Now it’s time to get out of your room and take advantage of the fresh fallen snow. As soon you know it February will be over and soon so will your winter blues.
To seek help or advice, visit the Concordia counselling and development website at http://cdev.concordia.ca/our-services/counselling/