It’s winter. This is both wonderful and terrible. On the positive side, this means Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday. All times where I spend time with family and relax. However, before this and even during (looking at you finals week) these times of celebration, comes big projects, big papers, big tests, less daylight, and more freezing temperatures. Winter is difficult. This time of year is a pressure cooker. I see it in the faces of students that I pass on the way to class. I see it in the faces of co-workers. I see it in my own face when I look in the mirror lately. The most wonderful time of the year isn’t actually always all that wonderful.
I’ve talked about before that as a senior, I was struggling with the motivation to do my work. That feeling has only increased in these last couple of weeks. Having the sun go down at 4:45 has really affected my mood and my overall energy levels. It is a constant cycle of feeling like I don’t care about anything and then worrying about the fact that I’m not caring. I find myself wanting to throw in the towel on my many projects and papers and instead curl up in my bed and sleep for a week straight. That’s not a great feeling, nor is it feasible. I find myself wanting to shut myself in my room and not talk to another human. It’s a feeling that I’ve been calling peopleitis. Also, not ideal considering I have to talk to people on a daily basis. I find myself feeling even more tired than usual. This year, I find that I’m lacking the joy I usually have when planning things like Friendsgiving and Christmas activities. I’m just struggling.
I was talking to my therapist about this when I saw her earlier this week. She was telling me how normal this feeling is. Some people get these kinds of feelings every year and are diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is the first year I have felt like this and therefore I am not diagnosed nor am I an expert but there are more than 3 million cases in the US every year. It isn’t abnormal. Symptoms include fatigue, depression, hopelessness, and social withdrawal. It usually presents itself in the fall and carries through the winter months. Those between the ages of 20 and 30 are also more likely to develop SAD than adults in older generations. Below are a couple of links that describe seasonal affective disorder in full detail.
It is also important to note that you do not need to be diagnosed with SAD to be struggling during the winter season. A lot of things can cause stress and sadness during the holiday season in particular. For college students, the amount of work we have to do at the end of the semester is overwhelming. Other people may be grieving the loss of a loved one or spending their first holidays without them. Military families have family members that are deployed. People could be going through breakups. Others may be unable to take time off of work and therefore have to be away from family. It may be hard for people to go into work in the dark and then leave in the dark. All of these things are difficult and can be especially difficult when the holidays roll around. So is there anything that can help?
The answer is yes. For those who think they may be struggling with SAD, I encourage you to go see a therapist. Being able to talk to someone who understands this problem can be extremely beneficial and they can give you the help you need. For those who are having a particularly hard time this winter/holiday season, here are a few things that I’m trying to do. The first thing is to not disengage from the world. Instead of crawling in my bed and shutting the door, I try and do things with my friends. I also try to actively participate in holiday events. Being around others who are excited, can sometimes help you get more excited. My roommates and I have decorated the apartment for Christmas because one of them was really excited to do so. I was less excited, but instead of sitting at home, I went with them to shop for decorations. In terms of working on not feeling overwhelmed by schoolwork, I write out a list at the beginning of the week breaking all of my assignments down into manageable chunks. I also build “catch-up days” into my schedule so that if I have a less than stellar day, I am not immediately behind. It isn’t easy, but just doing little things can help you to feel better.
I feel like this week’s post was a little bit of a downer, but it is the reality of what people can go through this time of year. If you are struggling please reach out to those in your support system, or to a professional. I hope that this post has helped in some way and made you feel a little less alone.