As seasons change and winter nears, our emotional health is at stake

Illustration by Madeline De-Michelle

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Have you ever found yourself feeling more down as we near the winter? Have you wondered how the season’s change managed to affect your emotions? Have you ever heard of seasonal depression?

I can answer all of these questions with a simple “yes.” The change in seasons, more specifically toward the winter, consistently takes over my emotions. I’ve always contemplated the drastic flip; I feel best in the fall but as the season nears its end, so does my joy. Suddenly, I’m riddled with unease and anxiety. 

I’d heard of seasonal depression — as I’m sure many of you have — but I never truly understood it.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, known as seasonal depression or SAD, is not just a random feeling. Instead, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, it’s a type of depression that reoccurs seasonally and tends to last for the duration of the season. 

As students, we frequently find ourselves neglecting our own mental health in an effort to further our success. We prioritize education, internships, jobs, social life and everything in between, yet constantly forget to pause and collect our sanity. 

Many of us return home for winter break, isolating ourselves from friends and daily routines. That seclusion is enough to throw someone off. The depression and anxiety that stems from such a change is unfortunately unavoidable for many.

This year, there is a fear that SAD will hit harder than ever. With COVID-19 already distancing us from our loved ones, that comfort we garner from their presence diminishes. 

Many of us won’t be celebrating the holidays with family and friends due to fears of traveling. My family’s annual Thanksgiving reunion is canceled, and I can attribute a lot of sadness to that. I have friends from other countries who have no way to go home for the holidays because of travel restrictions.

Cold weather and earlier sunsets make outdoor outings nearly impossible. In order to combat COVID-19, many of us have utilized the outdoors as a mode of social interaction. For college students who returned to campus this semester, winter break is going to feel like reliving the quarantine period over the spring and summer.

If you or someone you know is struggling with SAD, please visit The National Institute of Mental Health for information and treatments including light therapy, psychotherapy and medication. Students can contact University Student Counseling for virtual meetings, support groups and resources by visiting counseling.vcu.edu or calling 804-828-6200 during business hours.

Your emotions are always valid, regardless of season. However, with the season in transition, please don’t allow your mental health to falter.

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