Molly Crouch ‘24, Social Media Manager
Snow, lights, gifts, joy, family, break—the aspects in which the holiday season is perceived in schools, television, and movies. But these are not the only characteristics of these cold months. Money spent on the holidays, a decrease in sunlight, and a limit to outside activities bring a new depression induced reality to some people’s lives, this can also be known as seasonal depression.
The medical term for this condition is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD can affect people at all different times of the year, but it is most common during the winter months. Like any other disorder, SAD has characteristics that can be observed. These include, losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, having low energy and problems with sleeping, changes in your appetite or weight, feeling sluggish or agitated, difficulty concentrating, and feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty. All of these symptoms are a result from reactions to the differing attributes to a season. Sophomore Natalie Comstock said, “I feel those who may be going through a rough time let go of aspects of their life that could go more easily unnoticed such as grades, social gatherings, and hobbies. And during the winter, I feel it goes more easily unnoticed.” Comstock explains some changes people who are struggling with mental health can go through and how a different season seems to camouflage the actions of other people such as blaming the weather for not attending outings with others.
During the fall and winter months, there is a greater lack of sunlight and outdoor activities. Without these, it could be hard for someone to remain in control of their emotions because of the fluctuating rates of serotonin gained from the outdoors. Humans need sunlight to survive: the vitamin D provides stronger bone health, stable mental health, and stops diseases. Without it, it can severely change one’s mental health. Similarly the Vitamin D absorbed when engaging in outdoor activities promotes a more productive mindset of going out and accomplishing daily tasks. Sophomore Helena Hoffman said, “I have seen many different emotions around the school, and not just because they did not finish their assignment. Those who did not have winter sports, clubs, or events always seemed to become more and more quiet in class, and not acknowledge some of the people around them.” This limited recognition of outside people is a starting sign of someone struggling with his or her mental health. With reduced acknowledgment towards others, those closed off could then focus on themselves in both a negative and positive light. So many are not able to regain trust in their emotions until the seasons change.
Often, people try to balance these low mood swings with the joy of the holidays. But for many, there can be financial risk and family issues during these celebratory times. With the cost of gifts, food, decorations, and experiences, the holidays can become very expensive to families who have financial difficulties. This obstacle of stabilizing finances or being able to treat your family to what they deserve during the holidays can cause a multitude of stress and a depressional state of mind. Other stress induced traits include feeling pressured into buying a gift, spending time with family, and decorating your house for the holiday season.
SAD can affect anyone with isolation, cold weather, less hours of daylight, and lack of time outdoors, it can be hard to keep a positive mindset . So this holiday season, reach out to those who make you feel most like yourself and check in with others to see if their mental health is struggling. Everyone can make a change to someone this season, even if it is as little as small talk, going outside, surrounding yourself with others who make you feel appreciated, or purchasing a sun lamp that helps your body produce serotonin and emotions.