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Feeling SAD: Battling Fall/Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder

With week 8 of the Fall 2017 semester coming to a close, I feel simultaneously relieved and unnerved. We’re almost there! Yay! But also, holy s**t.

Regardless of whether you’re excited or terrified that the semester is half way over, a congratulations is most definitely in order.

Pass those midterms! The happy avocado believes in you! And so do I.

This week, I wanted to check in on my blog readers because, in addition to the stress that midterm season brings, this time of year is rather difficult for me because I get SAD.

And no, I don’t mean ‘sad’ like when you watch a movie and any slightly touching moment that happens transforms you into an inconsolable whirlwind of tears. No? Just me? Okay, cool.

Well, I’m talking about seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Those who suffer from SAD — which can either be a stand-alone or an additional sub-type of major depression — typically experience it around early fall, leading into and throughout the winter months. However, experiencing SAD in the spring/summer is totally possible, too.

Essentially, it’s a seasonal form of depression that pokes its head around the corner each year, around the same time of year. I take fall/winter SAD rather seriously because most people brush it off as ‘normal’ to feel down as the temperatures plummet, mislabeling the sensation a ‘winter blues.’

While it’s normal to feel down now and then, it’s important to understand that SAD is very much not that, just like depression =/= feeling sad. SAD is a form of depression characterized by persisting, prolonged periods of lethargy, oversleeping, not sleeping enough, hopelessness, overeating, not eating enough, etc. — much like major depression.

In my case, SAD takes shape as soon as I notice that sun is beginning to disappear before 6pm. Less sunlight means less serotonin, which can be a depression breeding ground. The simplest tasks start to feel more impossible than usual. My limbs become leaden, my drive is all but extinguished, my confidence is obliterated, and my thoughts are poisonous.

I’ve never been able to prevent SAD, and that’s the truly crummy part about some forms of depression — they don’t leave, you merely learn how to better handle them — but, in addition to the obvious solutions like therapy, medication, exercise, supplements, a balanced diet, and so on, I had an epiphany recently.

Amidst the relentless sea of responsibilities and obligations that consume us in the approaching winter months, how much of what we do is because we actually want to be doing it? And I’m talking, no strings attached.

This semester, I’m enrolled full-time and I’m working two part time jobs, one of which entails being a research assistant for a professor — i.e. reading scholarly articles all week, trying to understand them, and looking at Excel spreadsheets until my vision fails.

I took a hard look at my life and realized that the only ‘fun’ I’ve allowed myself is watching half of Food Network’s Chopped re-runs in between post-workout eating and showering. Everything else? Work. Stress. Deadlines.

So this week, I’m turning that question around on you. When was the last time you did something just for the hell of it? Have a heart to heart with yourself and reevaluate your schedule and your methods of self care. Our jobs, educations, and other responsibilities take priority, but our mental health should too.




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