Feeling SAD? Beat the winter-time blues this season



Lightbox therapy, one of the empirically based treatments for seasonal affective disorder, is available for rent in Student Counseling Services.

With the days growing shorter and the cold winds of winter approaching, students and professors alike may be feeling a little more glum than usual. Feeling run down and depressed may be more than a case of the winter-time blues.
Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a recurrent mental health illness that affects around 5% of the population, impacting more women than men. Symptoms of SAD can include difficulty with concentration, decreased interest in normal activities, depressed mood or irritability, sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, such as craving more carbohydrates or sweets, and weight gain. Individuals generally experience symptoms during the fall and winter that diminish during spring and summer.
While SAD is not fully understood, it is believed that circadian rhythms, or the natural cycle of physical, mental, and behavioral changes a body goes through in 24 hours, are impacted by changes in the environment. The circadian system, often referred to as the “body’s clock”, regulates neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin which might be disrupted with the loss of light that occurs during the fall and winter seasons. Melatonin is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of sleepiness and serotonin is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for stabilizing mood and creating feelings of well-being.

Gerald Farrell uses a lightbox in the Student Counseling Center. (Allexa Zwinck )

Individuals who are impacted by SAD can find relief through light therapy, medication, and/or cognitive behavioral therapy. Light therapy is when individuals are exposed to bright light via a light box for a certain period of time each day. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a therapeutic process that focuses on altering maladaptive thought patterns and behaviors. Both light therapy and CBT have been found to be effective treatment for SAD.
There are other ways to help ward off the impact of SAD that don’t involve therapeutic interventions. Try taking a walk outside in the sunshine for 20-30 minutes a day. Brief exercise has been found to be helpful in alleviating symptoms of depression. Make sure to take time out to spend with friends and family this winter season as well. Having strong social connections is related to having more positive mental and physical health outcomes.
Student Counseling Services offers cognitive behavioral therapy among other therapeutic styles with certified professionals. Additionally, there are light boxes available for students to check out if they find themselves being affected by the change of seasons. Ten therapy sessions and light box rental is already included in your tuition. Call 806-651-2340 or come by CC 116 to make your appointment.


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