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College Students and Mental Health: Part 3, What Parents Can DoRob Danzman, MS, NCC, LCMHC
As the days get shorter and schoolwork intensifies at the end of the semester, your student may find their motivation beginning to deteriorate. This is a common problem I've struggled with myself. Like many, I always attributed it to stress and mental burnout, but recently I discovered Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) to be the culprit.
What is SAD? Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression related to a change in season, and occurs typically around the same time each year. While it’s much more common for people with SAD to notice symptoms appearing at the beginning of fall through the winter months, it's also possible to experience SAD in the summer.
Waking up in complete darkness and seeing the sun go down at 4 p.m. isn’t everyone's ideal situation — in fact these tend to trigger our biological clocks to make us sleepier earlier.
If the winter months tend to get you or your student down, here are some ways to combat SAD.
Personally, light therapy has been the most effective in boosting my motivation throughout the winter months. Light therapy lamps are designed to mimic bright daylight without UV rays, and most have different brightness settings as well as timers. I like to face mine toward a white wall and let the light bounce all over the room.
Similar to light therapy lamps, Wake-Up Lights are colored light alarm clocks that gradually brighten to mimic the way the sun rises instead of beeping loudly at a set time. This is a great option especially if waking up early is a way of life year-round. Many also come with sunset options to help you or your student fall asleep more easily.
Exercise is vital to keep the mind and body healthy year-round, but this is especially true during the winter months. The endorphins released from exercise along with the production of internal heat definitely help ease symptoms of SAD.
Getting fresh air is essential to feeling revived and awake. You can do this by going for a run, walk, hike, or even just opening your windows a bit.
When winter sets in and school becomes more time-consuming, it’s easy to forget about the things that we enjoy doing outside of being a student. SAD only further enables this forgetfulness.
While SAD affects people in different ways, if you or your student are struggling with SAD symptoms around this time of year, try out some of these tips in order to thrive in the winter months.
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