When it’s more than just the “Winter Blues”

While some of us are in a winter wonderland this time of year, many people are not excited about the cold, slushy winter weather. It’s normal to feel a little gloomy when the weather is bitter, but for some people, the winter gloom is a depression that can have a serious impact on wellbeing.

Seasonal affective disorder, also called seasonal depression, is a type of depression that changes with the seasons, with symptoms usually appearing around the shift from fall to winter and disappearing over the warmer months of the year. As a result, winter feels like a dreadful season, plagued with feelings of hopelessness, depression, irritability, and low energy.

For college students, seasonal depression may interfere with school and work performance. With spring semester beginning mid-winter, this can be a huge problem for some students! Even those who do not experience seasonal depression may have mood changes and may be more irritable during the winter. It’s difficult to feel excited about classes when you have to trek through inches of snow to get to them!

If you know that you tend to experience seasonal depression or mood changes in winter, there are a few things you can try that may help alleviate the symptoms.

  1. Plan ahead of time – this year, up your self-care starting in fall. Get into a regular and adequate sleep schedule, exercise daily, and eat healthy to keep your body happy and give yourself a mental boost.
  2. Use bright light! 10,000 lux broad-spectrum lights can improve seasonal depression. This works because it mimics sunlight, which is reduced in the fall and winter. Since light has been shown to be helpful for many people with seasonal depression, special light therapy boxes are available to buy online (expect to spend around $50-$100). Keep your curtains open to let in as much natural light as possible, too.
  3. Stay connected with your friends and family. It’s easy to isolate yourself, especially during the winter season. Try to spend lots of time with loved ones who help you feel happy and loved. Doing fun outdoor winter activities with friends and family can expose you to more sunlight, too!
  4. Make an appointment with your doctor or a mental health professional, as therapy and antidepressant medication are other options that can help treat seasonal depression. Don’t be afraid to come to Counseling Services for help!

Avoid telling yourself that seasonal depression is just a case of the “winter blues.” Depression is a serious illness that you shouldn’t have to tolerate. Winter can be gloomy, but with help, it doesn’t have to feel hopeless.

Make This Your Best Year Yet!


Whether this is your first year on campus, or you’re nearly finished, get the semester started – and keep it going – on the right foot, with good academic & personal habits, to make this your best year yet.  Here are some helpful tips!  (Want more?  Check out Study-Hack.com)

 College Success Basics:

As with most things in life, finding your way in college means finding strategies that work for you.  Being a successful student is about much more than just your IQ score.  In fact, intelligence only accounts for a small percentage of college success.  Below you’ll find some recommendations to consider, but know that you may have to experiment with strategies that fit you.  There is no right or wrong way to study, manage your time, or take an exam, as long as the end result leaves you feeling healthy and fulfilled.

Blog Posts_College Success_Study Smart Tips

Know what’s expected

It’s important to be clear about what your instructors expect from you.  First thing’s first:  read the syllabus – from beginning to end.  It’s full of important information about the class.  You should find the text and what you should be reading when; the assignments and projects you’ll be completing; the exams you’ll be taking; and more.  If you’re unclear on any of it, ask your instructor for more details or clarification.  Still not sure?  Ask more questions.

How much time should you expect to spend outside of school on homework?  Well, the State of Ohio says you should expect to spend about 2 hours outside of class for each hour you spend in class.  So if your class meets for a total of 3 hours per week, you should be spending 6 hours per week at home on that material.  This includes reading, studying, preparing projects and papers, completing homework, etc.  But this is just a guide.  Everyone is different.  We each have strengths and weaknesses.  If you’re very strong in a subject, you may not need as much time for that class.  However, if you’re not so strong, you may need more time.  And there will be weeks where you don’t have the full amount of time in the required work, and other weeks where there will be more.

And be sure to check your email and any other method of communication your instructors have said they will use (such as Carmen).  Instructors will almost always use your OSU email to send you information, or post it in Carmen.  You should get in the habit of checking both regularly.  If you’d rather not have several email addresses to check, you can have your OSU email forwarded to another account.

Manage your time effectively

You have a lot to do.  Going to class, keeping up with the reading and homework, keeping track of papers & projects, as well as any extracurricular activities, clubs, or groups.  If you work, have children, or other commitments in addition to school, managing your time becomes even more challenging.  Here are some ideas:

  • Find a planner or calendar that fits your lifestyle.  If you’re always online, maybe an app is your best bet.  If you prefer low-tech, maybe a paper calendar works better.  Either way, the system will only work if you use it and remember to check it regularly (at least once a day).
  • Use reminders.  Set an alarm on your phone, use an app, send yourself an email, or put up a sticky note.  Whatever method you use, reminders can be a really handy way to keep up with deadlines and the little details that sometimes slip our minds.
  • Map out your week.  Draw out a visual plan for your typical week, with a column for each day and the times down the left side.  Now mark off the times you know you’ll be in class, at work, or any other consistent activity on your schedule.  Add in time that you’ll do homework or study, but be specific.  When will you do math homework?  When will you study for biology?  And of course, leave some time open for fun!!
  • Create an assignments spreadsheet.  Once great way to do this is in Excel, where you can make a column for the assignment name, due date, class, and any other information to keep track of.  Put in all the important dates (big & small) for all of your classes.  You can now sort all of them based on class name, due date, or otherwise.  This can be really handy when you’re balancing several demanding courses.  Also consider including your own pre-due dates.  For example, if you have a paper due in 4 weeks, you may enter your own assignment on the list, giving yourself a due date for the rough draft in 2 weeks, then the final paper in 3 weeks and a deadline to take it to the Writing Center for review with a tutor.

 Take care of yourself

It is so important that you take the time to take care of yourself during college.  It’s easy to put off going to the gym or taking the time to cook a healthy meal when you have a pile of homework waiting for you.  It can be tempting to take the quick & easy fast food dinner & just get to work; or to stay up just a little later to get in some more study time before the exam.  But those strategies often don’t pay off in the end.  Here are the basics:

  • Get enough sleep.  During early adulthood we still need 7-9 hours of sleep per night.  Yes, every night.  If you’re not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, you will notice a whole host of problems.  Sleep deprivation can reduce frustration tolerance, attention, concentration, and emotional stability.  It also causes us to crave foods that are high in carbs and sugars – not good if you’re trying to avoid the ‘freshman 15.’
  • Exercise.  Yes, you’ve heard it before, but it’s sound advice.  Even if you only have time to take a quick walk (or park in the furthest possible parking space from your building), exercise helps to keep you in good physical shape, reduces stress, and improves mood.
  • Learn to manage your stress.  If you find yourself stressed out all the time, take a look at the things that are causing you stress.  Are they really worth worrying about?  Sometimes they are, but worry and anxiety never solve the problem.  Come up with a strategy to tackle those situations head on.  When you do get stressed, find coping skills that work for you – time with friends, taking a break, or just a few minutes of deep breathing.
  • Eat well.  It can be hard to figure out how to eat a healthy diet on a tight budget, but with some practice, it can be done.  If you’re not sure where to start, do a little research and make a plan for healthy meals.  Bonus if you can prepare meals or snacks ahead of time so they’re ready before you’re starving.

Need more help with these areas?  The Ohio State Lima Student Wellness Center is open for Coaching.  Just check the hours on the Facebook page, posters around campus, or the door of the Wellness Center.  Stop in & ask one of the Coaches for some suggestions or more information.  You’ll be glad you did!