Is the Winter Making You SAD?

Here in Anchorage Alaska, we only get about seven hours of sunlight each day. Most all people could say that winter can be sometimes depressing and too long, especially with being in school for six and a half hours a day. One of the most common types of depression is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, more commonly known as SAD. It usually begins to strike during late fall or early winter, according to Dimond’s school nurse, Susan Whited, said that main symptoms of SAD are fatigue, lack of energy and, of course, depression. Whited also explained why the amount of sleep kids get each night can contribute to SAD. “What happens is kids go home and take naps so they stay up late and get into a sleep deficit.” Whited recommends taking a short walk after school, and advises to, “Get as much sunlight as you can.” Dimond counselor Chris Higgins believes that the reason more students come in to talk to him during the winter might not necessarily be related to SAD, but many other factors that the winter brings along with its joys. He says that inactive students have a greater chance of suffering from the winter than students who participate in extra-curricular activities do. Also, the fact that winter solstice occurs during the middle of the school year could really bring students down. Walking into school when it’s dark outside and leaving when the sun is beginning to set can be a huge depressant to students. Melinda Greig Walker, Dimond’s school psychologist, is very light sensitive herself. She uses a SAD light for 30-60 minutes a day if she remembers. One of the topics she mentioned was that the northern hemisphere has a higher alcoholism rate, which could definitely have something to do with the fact that here in Alaska, people are more sad than other places with lots of sunshine. She said that when one part of our emotional system isn’t working, it could conflict with our physical system, as well. Senior Lauren Hanley explained that although it’s winter, she gets excited because she knows that the winter will bring the snow. On the other hand, when asked about if she ever feels depressed during the winter, Freshman Kimberly Germaine said, “It’s not exactly depressed, it just makes me more tired.” Activities that these students recommend doing when the winter gets you down are playing sports, said Hanley, make the best of the winter by doing winter activities, or play Wii, suggested Germaine, or listen to some Lil’ Wayne, said Junior Joey Towslee. Due to the fact that we live in such a cold and dark place during the winter, we Alaskans sometimes have a hard time staying perky and upbeat. Just remember when you are feeling down that summer is just around the corner.