Here comes the sun: What it’s like living with seasonal affective disorder


Jeremy Davis 

Graphic by Hailey Stessman/the Gateway

I was so excited that it was finally nice out last Sunday.

I thought, “Hey, maybe winter ended early. Maybe the groundhog won’t see his shadow this year.” Looking at the forecast was a bad idea, because I could tell that today was just an outlier and cold weather would return the following day. I thought to myself, “Well, I can’t let a good day go to waste.”

I wanted to spend time outside while the weather was nice, so I took the bus to work instead of driving. It was pleasant just riding on the bus with all the windows open, letting the wind blow through my hair. I knew the day was going to be a good one, but for some reason I still wasn’t feeling too well knowing that cold days were returning.

Omaha has always been known to be chaotic when it comes to weather. At the start of the week on Sunday it could be a wonderful 59 degrees and by Tuesday it’s already a chilly 28 degrees—it’s infuriating that these warm days are few and far between during winter. Cold weather could cause us to not feel our best, especially when we’re having to travel from building to building on campus. It’s natural for us to blame the way we are feeling on weather … it’s hard not to. But, not everyone knows that this is a recurring issue during winter.

Not many people think about the weather affecting people’s mood, but it is very real, and science has proven that. People are suffering from seasonal affective disorder, or more commonly known as seasonal depression, during this time. You never know who could be affected by this. It’s important to make sure you check on your family and friends during this time just in case they are affected by seasonal depression. More people should understand how seasonal depression affects people, as it can be dangerous when people suffer from seasonal depression for months at a time.

During Omaha’s harsh winters it is easy to always feel down. It becomes hard to concentrate when you’re constantly freezing. When you don’t see the sun for a while you feel more tired than usual and become sluggish. Seasonal depression happens when someone isn’t getting enough serotonin, which causes you to have low energy and be in a depressed state. The effects of cold days along with being deficient in vitamin D, which comes from the sun, could make your mood worse. Having low vitamin D could cause you to have low energy and fatigue.

I have suffered from seasonal depression before so every time it comes around, I must think of ways to beat the cold, even though it’s hard for me to stay upbeat and active. I used to just sit in my house and not go anywhere because it didn’t feel worth it to get up and put on layers of clothes only to go somewhere in the cold. I wasn’t happy overall and thought it was just me—I never suspected it had anything to do with winter. I only discovered it was seasonal depression because it would repeat every winter. Here are a few tips I have learned over the years to conquer the cold and get rid of the winter blues.

There’s no way to make the sun stay out longer during these shorter days. The first thing is you need to continue to stay active. It’s going to be hard not trying to just stay in front of a heater wrapped in blankets but staying active is the trick. When things are cold, they are devoid of energy and are not active. Think of an ice cube, it just wants to stay in one place, but as it takes in energy it begins to become more active and eventually returns to water. That’s exactly what you need to do—become more active and let yourself flow through these dreary months.

Making sure to continue to be in contact with your friends and family, even though you don’t feel like talking and hanging out with people, will help you feel better afterward. Talking about things with a friend could help lower your stress levels and by doing something active with them, you are doubling up on being proactive against seasonal depression. Trying a new hobby with a friend could help change your attitude. Pull out some old board games or have a study night with friends.

One thing to remember with seasonal depression is that it’s not just you who is suffering but many students just like you. If you need assistance, you can go to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) on campus in the Health and Kinesiology building or check them out on the UNO website if you’re looking for help.

By trying to help people out, you will feel better, along with making others feel better. Allowing yourself to stay active will have you forgetting the winter blues as you draw closer to spring. Next time there is a warm day in the middle of winter, go outside and enjoy the nice day with your friends or you might regret it. Who knows—it could be the only nice day all winter.