Beating the Winter Blues

By: Shannon McHale ’15, CRS Weight/Fitness Supervisor

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that this winter has been especially brutal … and that cold, snowy weather can probably go ahead and stop anytime now. Luckily, spring is right around the corner!

Spring is right around the corner!

Spring really is right around the corner!

Even if you don’t have Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression that typically starts in the fall and continues through winter, it’s definitely easier to succumb to the blues when it’s cold, gray, and wet outside.

Because we’re awesome (or because we need to knock out those winter blues, too), we scoured our sources and collected some ways to make the remaining weeks of winter more manageable.

  1. Get (natural) sunlight. The bad news: the lack of sunlight that accompanies winter time impedes your brain’s ability to produce serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone – and, new studies have shown that “extra” darkness may affect our circadian rhythms, making us feel like we should be sleeping more. The good news: getting more sunlight can help put a stop to the gloom. Try going for a walk or eating lunch outside. Opening your curtains and sitting by the window if it’s too cold to actually go outside can have a positive impact, too.
  2. Clean up your diet. Cravings for carbs and warm, stick-to-your-ribs foods are especially common during cold months. Part of this can be attributed to literally wanting to warm up – but part of it can be attributed to lowered serotonin levels. There’s two ways to tackle this:
      1. Watch the carbs you eat. Look for whole grains with slow-releasing sugars to keep blood sugar spikes (and hunger) at bay, rather than white rice or flour – which can send sugar skyrocketing and make you feel hungry again minutes after you finish eating.
      2. Add tryptophan to your diet, an amino acid that may aid serotonin production. Foods rich in tryptophan like turkey, milk, and egg whites might help decrease the cravings; if not, they’re still smart food choices that will provide nourishment to power you through a dark and sad day.
  3. Exercise. We can’t emphasize it enough – move, move, move. In fact, we developed a whole Make Moves campaign encouraging you to do just that. And do it outdoors if you can – it’s a good way to spend some time outdoors, and by exercising outside, you’ll get the double benefit of exercise plus sunlight.
  4. Take a getaway … to somewhere a little less wintry. Luckily for us, Spring Break is right around the corner – if you can, use the time off as an opportunity to get somewhere a bit sunnier and warmer than… ahem, College Park. If you don’t already have plans, some careful searching can get you last-minute deals from companies who need to fill plane seats, hotel beds, or cruise ship spots in the near future. Sites like Hotwire, Travelocity, Kayak, and the like even have “last-minute getaway” sections, so have no fear! And, if you’re short on time or money, a day or weekend trip to somewhere a little bit more south could do the trick.

While all of these are great ways to beat a case of the average “winter blues”, we recommend seeing a professional if you’re experiencing seasonal depression that’s interfering with your life. You may have diagnosable Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and while implementing the above strategies can definitely make a difference, SAD is a serious condition that is treatable through therapy, medication, and/or light treatments.

There are lots of ways to seek help right here on campus, including the Counseling Center, the Health Center’s Mental Health Services, and the Help Center.

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