Do you have the winter blues?

by Rachel Peterson

The winter blues may be a more serious condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
According to, about 10 to 20 percent of Americans suffer from this disorder, with women and northerners affected the most.
SAD is a form of depression that occurs during winter months and is thought to be triggered by changing amounts of sunlight during the late fall and winter seasons. It is believed that the lack of light during winter may disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle and decrease the amount of serotonin, a “happy” chemical, the body produces, according to
Ellie Olson, Director of Counseling Services, said SAD is not as severe as a major depressive disorder, but is still something to be taken seriously.
“People will notice changes in their mood such as lack of motivation, change of sleeping habits and change of eating habits,” Olson said.
Olson does caution that not every case of the winter blues is Seasonal Affective Disorder.
“I think probably the majority of the population is feeling a little blue about winter at this point. It tends to be something that happens pretty regularly and isn’t alleviated on nice days,” she said.
If you are concerned about a peer, Olson suggests talking to them in a private setting and listing observable behaviors instead of diagnosing them.
“Make observations to a person about what you’ve noticed and why that makes you concerned. Ask them if they’ve noticed these things or what they think is going on. This gives them a chance to respond,” she said.
Various forms of therapy can be used to treat SAD. This includes light boxes. Light boxes imitate the sun not received during the winter and may help reset body
cycles and replenish serotonin. Olson said research shows light box therapy has been shown to help alleviate SAD.
Olson said just visiting a counselor and talking to them is very helpful. She recommends seeking counseling before turning to medication. Going back to the basics to take care of the body is essential, too. Olson said getting regular sleep, staying active and eating healthy can make a difference.
“We tend to carb load because we crave things that keep us full and give us energy. We need to remember to keep a balanced diet with some of the nutrients that help our bodies function properly,” she said.
Read a book, practice yoga or watch a favorite movie.
“As college students, the winter months can become busy and stressful. Make sure to do things that are
rejuvenating and fulfilling for ourselves,” Olson said.


Winter may be far from over, but a plummeting mood does not have to continue.



“If you’re not sure if you’re having a hard time, reach out. That’s what we’re here for,” Olson said. “We would much rather have people who are struggling come in and give us a shot rather than have them struggle by themselves.”