As the leaves start changing color and the temperatures begin to drop, annual mental health struggles re-surface: seasonal depression/seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal depression is often self-diagnosable, with symptoms such as low energy, loss of motivation, irregular or unhealthy sleeping or eating habits, difficulty concentrating, and more. The vast majority of people with SAD experience these feelings during fall and winter months.
These symptoms have resonated with me for years, but I always assumed it was just the cold winter weather putting me into a bitter and lazy mood, or a case of “winter blues”. I didn’t realize that there was an official term for it until last year. I began to research the topic in the winter of 2020 because my mental health declined during the pandemic, and was especially bad during fall and winter. I was eager to understand what I was experiencing and through researching and talking with my close friends, I found that I wasn’t alone in this annual “slump”.
Personally, I struggle the most with loss of motivation. This has become increasingly difficult to manage this year due to my workload being significantly higher than last year. At the beginning of the school year, I felt confident and organized. But that confidence slowly dissolved after the first month and a half. Because of all of my extracurricular activities, I don’t get home until around 8pm most days. I come home exhausted from being out all day, and still find myself with hours of homework to do late into the night or early the next morning. I am constantly overwhelmed with work.
Despite all this work, I find myself procrastinating and taking multiple breaks during homework sessions because I can’t focus while I am stressed. During spring and summer I usually have an energy sprint every day, but during fall and winter, I’m lucky if I have more than two a week. Even though I feel like I am pushing myself to a breaking point, I can’t escape the feeling that others are always doing better or are excelling beyond me. I constantly feel like I’m falling behind. Especially with finals getting closer and my extracurriculars becoming more involved & stressful, this feeling of being behind is becoming more prevalent in my day to day life. The worst part is, I don’t feel like I can do anything about it. Although teachers have done their best to help me through this, and I really appreciate it, some days it’s unnecessarily difficult to do normal assignments. My lack of motivation leads to more stress, which in turn leads to more procrastination. It’s a never ending cycle.
Because SAD is so common and prevalent during this time of year, everyone should be more conscious of those around them. This goes for both students and teachers. I know it is difficult for me to admit how I am feeling and to take breaks when I need to. Having people check in on me has made me feel so much more comfortable and supported. I have been trying to work on self-care recently and I’ve found that talking to others can help lift a weight off of yourself. I often turn to my best friends for support and I also check in on them daily. Take the time to be patient and talk with others around this time of year. For everyone who is struggling with SAD, I want you to know you are not alone. You are strong and doing the best you can. You will get through this.