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How One College Student Combats Seasonal Affective Disorder

Carlee Weber Sep 21, 2023

When the days get shorter and the nights start to get longer, you may notice your mental health start to change. You’re not alone. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects around 10 million Americans every year.


What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Also known as seasonal depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder hits most commonly around the onset of Fall and into Winter, and shares many of the characteristics of depression. You might feel heavier, more lethargic, have a hard time focusing, wanting to sleep a lot or not be sociable, and experience feelings of unhappiness, low self esteem, and general sadness. This hits anyone at any age, and it’s become a big conversation on TikTok where it’s known as “Rotting in bed” or “bed rot”, for those days you simply don’t want to get up and do anything. 


What helps with Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Being in college and having Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) means adopting a new mindset. At least that’s what it meant for me. Trying to navigate a new place and social setting is daunting by itself. Add in trying to juggle classes, clubs, and professional pursuits. And, dealing with SAD on top of that feels even harder.

Here are five things that have helped me combat SAD and take on the day.


Make the most of the daylight hours

SAD is often thought to be caused by the shortened hours of the day messing with our body’s internal clock. Because there is less sunlight, a chemical change in the brain may result and your natural serotonin levels are depleted—a good excuse to snack on a little chocolate. My other solution for this is to be outside as much as possible. In Pennsylvania, where I live, it gets pretty chilly, so it’s difficult for me to make the most of the sunlight. There are, however, still fun outdoor activities to do in the cold weather. Wrap up warm and try going on a wintery walk with a friend. Your body and brain will feel all the better for it. 


Don’t stay in your room all day

Get up and get moving. The reality of the situation is that SAD can make it extremely difficult to get out of bed and be productive. But, rotting in bed is exactly that and it really can just make things feel a lot worse. It might seem like a good idea to stay in bed as a way to decompress or even hide. Try to keep this in check as it can be a slippery slope.

Don’t let yourself get to the point of rotting in bed. Walk around campus, get together with friends, study in the library. Seek alternatives to bed rot. You can watch those TikToks in the dining hall instead of staying in bed and using DoorDash for the third time this week.


Make your space comfortable

Make your space comfortable in a healthy way. Sometimes, if we work in the space where we sleep, it can make it more difficult to sleep there. This creates a vicious cycle. Working in your stress-free space makes it nearly impossible to get restful sleep. 

So, make your dorm or your bedroom function as a place where you can relax and decompress. As tempting as it may be, do not study in your bed. Go to a common room, a lounge, a cafe—just get out of your room to study and work on homework.


Get involved

The best way to add positive stress into your life is to balance your life plate. All work and no play can really wear a person down. Joining a club that relates to a passion will push you to get through the day. 

With that being said, do not overbook yourself. Committing yourself to too many activities can make you become over-stressed, which could even worsen SAD (in my experience). So, be flexible with your schedule, don’t overdo it, and make sure you have a healthy, balanced schedule. 


Make sure you have time to unwind

In that healthy balance, you need to give yourself time to unwind. I had a professor who allotted herself a “do not disturb” hour every day. During this hour, she would power off her electronics and process the day. I, personally, enjoy journaling. There are a variety of ways to deal with school stress and feel less anxious

It’s imperative to set aside personal time. Personal time doesn’t always have to be deep and introspective. It can be something simple like performing a self care routine and watching your favorite movie. Find what works best to express yourself and decode your emotions. Be kind to yourself too. 


Everyone’s experience with SAD is completely different. My SAD starts at the end of summer, but it can start at the change of any season. At the end of the day, I have found therapy to be most effective for me. Most importantly, you should prioritize your mental health in a way that works best for you.