It was a dark and stormy night…followed by a dark and stormy morning, a dark and stormy afternoon and another dark and stormy evening. Hey everyone, it’s late winter in Western Oregon! If you’re like me, your alarm goes off in the morning and you want to burrow back under the covers until the sun comes out…which may be a few months. Here in Oregon, we experience not only a lot of rain, but also significantly reduced hours of daylight. Often people notice differences in mood during the darker months.

There has been a lot of buzz in the media about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD – an appropriate acronym if there ever was one). Symptoms of SAD include:

•Increased appetite, with weight gain
•Increased sleep and daytime sleepiness
•Less energy and ability to concentrate in the afternoon
•Loss of interest in work or other activities
•Slow, sluggish, lethargic movement
•Social withdrawal
•Unhappiness and irritability

However, you don’t have to be suffering from SAD to get bummed out by the constant drizzle. Here are a few simple things you can do to combat those rainy day blues:

First, try out all those things you were told so tediously while you were growing up: eat well, get enough sleep and exercise. These three things can go a long way toward stabilizing mood, especially in the naturally disruptive environment of a university campus.

Second, you can try light therapy. The counseling center has a light box, which is, literally enough, a box that emits light. Light therapy uses a special lamp with a very bright fluorescent light (10,000 lux) that mimics light from the sun. A common practice is to sit a couple of feet away from the light box (while not looking directly at it) for about 30 minutes every day. This is usually done in the early morning, to mimic sunrise. You can come to the counseling center to try out our light box, or you can purchase your own (a quick Google search will give you a lot of options).

Finally, consider adding some vitamin D to your diet. Simple and affordable, vitamin D has been shown to have positive effects on mood. In one study, for example, women in the state of Washington increased their vitamin D levels by taking 5000 IU of vitamin D each day during the winter. In many of these women, depressive symptoms lessened significantly as indicated by the decrease in their scores on a depression test (McCann & Ames, 2008).

Remember, some mood swings and irritability are normal. If you feel like your moods are getting out of control or last for longer than a few weeks, please come see us at the counseling center and/or the student health center.

Be well.

Joselyn Perry is the Campus Wellness Coordinator at Pacific’s counseling center on Cedar Street.

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