(Q) Why do some people feel more down during winter quarter and what are some tools students have to fight this?
(A) The winter quarter can be a really tough time for some people for a variety of reasons and it is quite common. One of the main reasons for feeling more down during wintertime is that there is less exposure to sunlight due to the change in the season/weather. We might not realize it all the time, but sunlight has some important effects on our brain chemicals, such as serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is related to mood and social behaviors, among other things. Melatonin is a hormone that helps to control your sleep and wake cycle. When both of these chemicals are not adequately released in our brain, due to lack of sunlight exposure, they contribute to our feeling down and sometimes depressed.
Some tools to fight this feeling is exposure to light through light therapy lamps, taking a daily walk outside for up to an hour, getting eight hours of sleep, staying connected with friends and family, eating a balanced diet, and/or counseling. There are light therapy lamps available for student use in the Counseling Center, Health Center, and you can even rent them out from the library.
(Q) Does exercise relieve stress? I am having some trouble finding ways to exercise in the winter.
(A) Yes it can! Research has shown that exercising is a great way to relieve stress and increase your overall sense of wellbeing. When you exercise, your body releases a chemical called endorphins, which is the body’s natural “feel good” chemical. Exercising can also help you shift your focus from the daily stressors as you pay more attention to the exercise task you are doing.
When beginning to exercise, start small. You may start out exercising for two days per week for just 30 minutes. As you get used to it, you may want to increase your activity time. Some exercises such as aerobics, walking, jogging, and yoga are helpful. You can check out the athletic center’s gym on campus or find a cool exercise video on YouTube and work out at home/in your dorm. It may even be fun to do exercise with a group of friends!