Mystery Diagnosis: "Winter blues"
If you’re like me and you live in the Antarctica of the continental United States, also known as Wisconsin, or any place far from the equator, then you know first-hand that winter SUCKS. The days are shorter, it’s ridiculously cold, and outside looks like that one scene from "Monsters Inc." when Sully and Mike realize they’re in the Himalayas.
Every winter, I get into the same mood. I’m constantly tired--so it’s hard to wake up. My cravings for bread and sweets are out of control, and I don’t feel as motivated to do homework or hang with friends. Basically, I turn into a human Eeyore.
Being the WebMD junkie that I am, I decided to try and self-diagnose myself. Once I got to a page that said I was possibly suffering from a rare form of multifocal leukoencephalopathy, I knew I needed to seek professional help.
So, like any other college student, I went to my campus’ counseling center. There I met with a nurse practitioner (named Judy) who, through an evaluation, was able to put a diagnosis to my repeating winter blues--seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD).
Unfortunately in its acronym, seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that develops during the changes in seasons--most commonly beginning in the fall and carrying throughout winter. Symptoms can include low energy, trouble sleeping, sluggish feeling, an uncontrollable eating habit and much more. A major factor that attributes to SAD is the decrease in sunlight for individuals that are especially in winter regions.
Once I got my diagnosis, I immediately freaked at the thought of trying to balance treatment with work, school, bills, and a social life. However, nurse Judy was extremely helpful when it came to the changes I needed to make.
She prescribed the following: incorporating more veggies and healthy options into my diet, going to the gym a couple days out of the week, and making sure my sleep schedule stays consistent.
I took a trip to our local grocery store and cashed out (because yes $40 dollars is baller-status for broke college kids) on spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, squash, and cucumber. I switched my usual skim milk for almond milk and my regular yogurt for Greek yogurt. Once I got home, I was really excited to start cooking. I got in my Ratatouille vibe and made pesto pasta with spinach and tomatoes. I also ate cucumber with hummus as a healthy snack option and satisfied all sweet cravings with honey vanilla greek yogurt.
Afterwards, I went to the recreation center and basically just tried out every fitness machine. I didn’t have a workout plan in mind, but I told myself I needed to stay at the gym for an hour every day. One thing I found motivating was YouTube videos for beginners yoga. Since I had no actual fitness routine, I was able to easily follow online instructions and kinda get the hang of poses.
Once it was time to go to bed, I fully cut out staying up past midnight binge-watching the television show "Shameless." I made sure I drank chamomile tea (a sleep aid) before bed and played relaxing throughout my sleep. Ultimately noticed myself waking up more energized once the process continued throughout the week.
Doing this for now over a week, I definitely see changes in my mood from before. I’m not as tired, no more food coma from the crappy food I was eating, and I feel a lot more engaged than before. Seasonal affective disorder can be dismissed as just regular up-and-down emotions, but not addressing those issues could spiral into other serious complications. If you feel like you may be suffering from any of these symptoms, don’t be embarrassed to seek help. Counseling centers are there to help you no matter what--most of the time being free of charge. If your campus has one, don’t wait to schedule an appointment. If not, try making some small changes in your life like I did. Even if it means getting your exercise by only taking the stairs, strive to be a blossom and not a buttercup.
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