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Fighting Seasonal Depression

We know this time of the year is rough, but we have some strategies for you to try to fight the SAD.

By F+, Featured

Illustration by Rohan McDonald.

The winter can be hard on all of us, with Jack Frost nipping at our noses. Chicago wasn’t named the “Windy City” for nothing, and it couldn’t be more obvious why than while walking to class and feeling the wind whip through a never-warm-enough coat. Beyond just the weather, those “winter blues” can get quite serious. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of seasonal depression that is specific to winter, and symptoms may include: oversleeping, low energy, feeling sluggish, and experiencing a feeling of hopelessness. Now while this is serious, don’t fear: There are a couple of things that one can do to fight SAD, or relieve SAD’s symptoms.  

Light It Up!

Fortunately, there is such a thing as “full spectrum light bulbs” which are the closest we can come to getting sunlight. They contain all the colors of spectrum, unlike normal fluorescent and incandescent bulbs. Six hours under one of these babies is equivalent to about 30 minutes of sunlight. (Typically it is recommended to use a 10,000-lux light box at a distance of about 16 to 24 inches from your face.) They are available at most hardware stores, and also to rent out at the School of the Art Institute’s (SAIC) media center. So, go get your indoor sun-tanning on!

Aroma Therapy

Aroma therapy is both soothing for the body as well as a way to balance and promote spiritual health. The different oils induce relaxation and are a great way to fight SAD in the winter months. Chamomile, eucalyptus, and peppermint are all great oils to start with and have various therapeutic properties, such as relieving bloating, battling inflammation, and calming the body. 

Cuddle Up

While this is a more holistic solution, friendship and positivity are important in order to avoid succumbing to the rather gloomy weather. Put on a good movie and make some hot chocolate or chai tea with a couple of friends, and maybe you’ll find yourself looking out the window at the snow flurries and appreciating their beauty.

Get Moving!

Exercise is important in releasing chemicals and fighting the sluggishness that is associated with both SAD and depression in general. SAIC offers a school discount to the downtown LA fitness, so it’s only $30 a month. Alternatively, grab a friend or two and go ice-skating downtown at the ribbon for only $12 for a fun and winter-specific good time.

Munch Away!

Complex carbohydrates can help maintain levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. It can be easy to forget a full diet when living on your own with a college level budget, but thankfully brown rice and whole wheat bread don’t always break the bank. Also, it’s another excuse to eat more sweet potatoes! Sweet!

The Low D

Vitamin D is critical in the winter months. A deficiency in it can lead to both increased tiredness and fatigue as well as a weakened immune system. So, go grab some over-the-counter vitamins from your nearest drug store! (Just check with your doctor first to see if you have a deficiency.) 


Stress is a part of life, but it can get overwhelming under that constantly grey sky. Taking an hour out of your day for yourself to breathe and de-stress can help. Relaxation of all kinds decreases the level of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine in the blood. It also helps balance your biochemistry, so try sitting criss-cross (applesauce), and take a deep breath; this might help more than you think.

Essential Fats

Fatty acids help with immune system and are a necessary part of a good diet. They can be found in cold water fish, such as salmon, as well as nuts and seeds such as flaxseed. Fish oil and flaxseed oil can both be found at most drug stores.

Ask for Help if You Need It

It can be easy to push off feelings of hopelessness as just part of the season. However, taking care of mental health is important for your overall wellness. SAD is a serious illness, and can also be a sign of a more continuous depression. Thankfully, SAIC offers fourteen free help sessions at the health center on the 14th floor of Lakeview. There is no shame in getting help, so don’t ignore your feelings and make an appointment if you think you need one. To schedule an appointment, call 312.499.4271 or email [email protected]

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