Posted on: February 23, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Graphic by Emily Stephens

By Thalia Rivera, Features Editor

If you’ve been feeling a bit unmotivated or more fatigued than normal, you’re not alone.

You may have seasonal affective disorder, a condition that causes drowsiness and fatigue to linger later in the day. 

Typically, melatonin levels rise in the winter to accommodate for longer nights, causing a natural decrease in what MV counselor Sara Levi described as “the feeling of bandwidth in your body.” 

Melatonin peaking later in the day can cause SAD, “a subtype of depression” that “tends to occur when sunlight is at its lowest,” according to MV psychopathology professor Amy Williamson. 

This situation could lead to a reduction in productivity and issues falling asleep at night, creating a cycle of exhaustion and lowered productivity that can serve to intensify depressive symptoms. 

Graphic by James Landgraf
Exercise and light therapy are a couple ways of coping with seasonal affective disorder.

Williamson emphasized that despite winter-pattern SAD being most common, it also occurs in the summer months. The sunshine and good weather can make students’ symptoms feel worse, instead of better. 

MV counselor Aminah Salah described how SAD affected one of her student clients: “She already felt depressed, so the depression felt worse during that time, partly because she felt like the days were long, it was nice outside, people were doing things and she just felt still stuck.”

Regardless of SAD, shorter winter days can correspond with a lack of motivation, making students less productive. 

“People tend to sleep a little bit more in the winter anyway,” Levi said. “That’s okay, that’s actually kind of normal. Be gentle with yourself.”

The use of a 10,000-lux lamp known as “light therapy” is one of the most common treatment methods for winter-pattern SAD. Typical activities to mitigate depression, such as exercise, are recommended as well. Medication may be prescribed in more extreme cases. 

Levi says dealing with SAD is about “being gentle and compassionate with yourself and just being okay with the fact that our bodies have rhythms.

“We can kind of push past that, but only so much. It kind of takes a bite out of your ‘brain-body’ budget.”

Be gentle with yourself.”

Sara Levi, MV Counselor

The MV Counseling Center is available to help students struggling with SAD. You can make an appointment with a counselor by calling the office at (708) 974-5722 or emailing counseling@morainevalley.edu.

“If you think that you are struggling with seasonal affective disorder, I would recommend that you come talk to us in the Counseling Center and we can work with you to try to improve it,” MV counselor Shanya Gray said.