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.


Classes are done, finals are complete, time for break!  It sounds great – nearly a month without sitting through classes, stressing over homework, trying to juggle school with work, friends, life.  But each break between semesters seems to bring challenges for many students.


While all that down time sounds fantastic, it quickly becomes a double-edged sword.  Students often find that by the end of a long break, like winter break or even summer break, they feel worse than when it began.  And this issue probably affects more students that we realize … because who wants to complain about time off?


So why do long breaks have the opposite effect from what we expect?  There are several possible reasons.


First, you spend an entire semester, 16ish weeks, building a level of activity and stress then suddenly it’s just over.  After your last final, there is a near absence of stuff to stress about in most cases.  It’s a sudden drop in anticipation, worry, and stress levels, which equates to sudden shifts in stress hormones in the body and sudden changes in brain chemistry.  All of that sometimes leaves you feeling like a balloon someone has just let the air out of.  Taking a break is fantastic after all of that work and stress – in fact, it is absolutely necessary.  However, after about 2 days of this, you start to notice the lack of activity and stress to which you’ve become accustomed.


Second, what we do with our down time can have a huge impact on our mood and day-to-day behavior.  If you go into break with no plan, or a plan to do a whole bunch of nothing, you may run into problems.  When we’re bored, there are a handful of passive activities we easily turn to.


Often, we think – and think, and think, and think.  And for many people, too much time stuck in your own head with your thoughts often takes a downward turn.  We start to analyze all of our flaws, the things that are wrong with our lives, what we should’ve done differently on those exams, how our lives aren’t where / what we want them to be by now, and on it goes.  We fairly quickly notice a downward shift in our mood from doing “ok” to feeling, “blah,” to sad, and sometimes all the way to depressed.  Not good.


Another frequent passive activity is hanging out on the couch scrolling through social media pages.  We see all the amazing things others are doing, the fun times they’re having, the accomplishments they’ve achieved, and we begin to feel bad about ourselves.


Closely related to the social media binge is the streaming video binge.  Whether your site of choice is YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, or another, it’s so easy to get hooked on a story line and realize you’ve just spent the last 7 hours sitting on the couch, eating chips, and watching TV (or the laptop).  This leaves you feeling physically stiff, mentally fatigued, and low on energy.  This is definitely not restorative down time.


If you’ve had a major stressor in your personal life during the semester, sometimes those are put on the back burner and not really dealt with because we’re so busy with school.  These can catch up with you during break.  Be prepared to bring out your best coping skills and use them so you’re not ambushed by this.  Also, if you’ve lost a loved-one any time in the last year or 18 months, the break (with the lack of things to keep you busy and big holidays) can be a very difficult time.  Knowing this in advance can sometimes buffer the impact we feel when those emotions and memories creep up on us.


Finally, a sometimes-unexpected fact can make winter break less enjoyable:  changing relationships with family.  As you go through college, you move from being a “kid” – a teenager under full parental supervision – to being an adult, but it doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s a process and it doesn’t always happen smoothly.  You may encounter more power struggles about curfews, house rules, and developing your own independence.  This can be even more pronounced if you’re the first person in your family to go to college because you may feel that your parents just don’t understand what’s going on in your life now (and your parents may feel the same way).  These changing relationships are normal and if you keep that in mind, it may make the process a bit easier.


So what can you do to avoid this month-long downward spiral?  Here are some tips:


  1. Social media gets everyone’s “good” side.

When people post to social media, they usually post the best parts of their lives – fun times with good friends, pics that are most flattering, and the most brag-worthy achievements.  It’s much less common for people to post failures, pics from first thing in the morning before they’ve brushed their hair or teeth, or boring nights sitting alone at home with nothing to do.  Keep that in mind as your browse.  Avoid the temptation to compare everyone else’s “A side” to your “B side.”


  1. Make a plan.

As you’re wrapping up the semester & exams, think about what you’d like to do over break.  Allow yourself some free time (a good Netflix binge is ok once in a while – just not for a whole month), but also plan some active time.  Check in with friends ahead of time to see when they’ll be around so you can plan something.  Get out of the house!  Go to the movies, out to dinner, walk the mall, anything that gets you up & out the door.


  1. Spend time with people.

It’s important that you not spend the entire (or even most of the) break alone in your room or apartment.  Find some people to be around – spend time with family, reconnect with friends you don’t have a chance to see during the regular semester, find a way to make some new friends.


  1. Get active.

If the weather allows it, outside time is great.  Some sunlight, especially in the winter, can do wonders for your mood.  Be sure to keep up with whatever your regular routine of exercise has been, or use this time to create one if you haven’t been active.  Moderate-intensity exercise improves mood, improves your thinking, decision making, and memory, and helps you sleep better.  Workout with friends – bonus points for social interaction & exercise at the same time!


  1. If you’re really struggling, ask for help.

Sometimes the break, the holidays, the time alone can be extra difficult.  If you’re dealing with an anxiety disorder, clinical depression, or grieving the loss of loved ones, the break may be even worse.  If you’ve tried making a plan and getting out of the house and it’s just not helping; if your mood or anxiety are getting worse or you’re feeling desperate or even suicidal, it’s time to ask for help.  You don’t have to be miserable.  It is ok to ask for help.  Talk to someone – your parents, a trusted friend, a therapist.  There are several national hotlines you can call, or even text, to talk with someone 24 hours a day.  Here are some:

Crisis Text Line:  Text 741-741 any time and a live, trained crisis counselor will text you back.

IMALIVE Online Crisis Chat:  https://www.imalive.org/

National Suicide Hotline:  1-800-273-8255


Winter break is a great time to recoup from the busy semester; however, without a plan to make use of your time, you’ll find yourself wondering where the time went, and may end up feeling more down than before the break began.  Stay active, get engaged with other people, and have a great break!!



What if your teachers knew …?

Over the summer, Ohio State Lima Counseling Services office (LCCS) began a project aimed at connecting our faculty and our students.  And so far, the results have been exciting!!

Every year Kyle Schwartz, a third-grade teacher in Denver, Co, asks her students to fill out index cards anonymously completing the sentence, “I wish my teacher knew …”  This year, she began posting some of her students’ thought-provoking, sometimes poignant responses on Twitter.  She gained attention from around the world, and other teachers have tried her project in their classes as well.  It has been a way for Ms. Schwartz to learn about her students, feel connected to them, and for them to feel that they are cared about as individuals.  You can check her out yourself on Twitter @kylemschwartz or read some of the news stories linked below.

This year, we wanted to try something similar with our students.  We know our students come from a variety of backgrounds and have diverse family situations, interests, and motivations for being on our campus.  We also know that it’s important for their academic success to be engaged in the campus community.  To that end, Counseling Services has planned several outreach programs for the upcoming year to facilitate engagement.

But first, we needed the faculty’s help!  We asked our faculty to set a good example and to also be engaged in the campus community in this way.  We gave them each an index card and and asked them to complete the sentence “I wish my students knew …”  They could leave the card anonymous, and it could say anything they wished to communicate to students.
0824151311-1Our goal was for all of our faculty to take a moment to consider something (or more than one something) they’d like students to know.  Something about them, about teaching, about surviving college, something they wish someone had told them when they started this journey.

Well, our faculty did not disappoint!!  They shared with us personal stories, their love for teaching, and much more.  We’re posting these bits of insight and wisdom on our Facebook page with the hashtag #iwishmystudentsknew.  Keep an eye out for them.  We’ll also use them in student events that we conduct throughout the year.

Now it’s the students’ turn.  During Autumn semester, we will be collecting similar cards from students and sharing their responses with faculty, administration, and the larger campus community.  These will show up under the hashtag #Iwishmyteacherknew.

Want to see more?  Check out our Facebook page to keep up with what your teachers have to say, and what other Lima Buckeyes are saying.



More about Kyle Schwartz’s project:  (search: I wish my teacher knew)




Welcome to Wellness at Ohio State Lima

Welcome to the new Ohio State Lima Wellness blog.  Here you’ll find all kinds of great information about maintaining – and improving – wellness in all areas of your life.


Ohio State Wellness is the home for both the OSU Lima Student Wellness Center and the OSU Lima Counseling & Consultation Services.  We are a part of Student Life at Ohio State Lima and both have the over-arching goal of improving students’ lives – not just their academic performance, but helping them live happier, healthier, and well-informed.

Student Wellness Center – the SWC is a student-led program that provides many key services for OSUL students.  The SWC is manned by trained student volunteers who have extensive knowledge and experience working with all 9 dimensions of wellness.  

  • Wellness Coaching – Our SWC Wellness Coaches offer one-on-one peer coaching for other students.  Coaching meetings can be related to any area of wellness, but common topics include study skills, stress management, time management, getting involved on campus & making new friends, budgets and managing financial aid money a semester at a time, and tips & tricks for healthy eating on a budget.
  • Outreach Events – Throughout the year, Wellness Coaches plan and implement a variety of events aimed a improving student wellness in some way.  Past events have included cooking demonstrations for eating healthy on a budget, recyclables trade-ins for seedlings, free balloons for National Random Acts of Kindness Week, finger painting, hula hooping, and many more!


Lima Counseling & Consultation Services – LCCS is the Ohio State Lima office for student mental health.  We provide services such as assessment, diagnosis, brief psychotherapy, consultation, and referrals for students with a wide-array of mental health concerns.  Students seek services from LCCS for reasons as varied as homesickness, clinical depression & suicidal thinking, social anxiety, test anxiety, ADHD, relationship concerns, grief & loss, coming out issues, and many others.

  • All services are completely free for currently enrolled Ohio State Lima students.
  • All services are confidential – our clinical records are kept separate from academic records and we don’t talk with parents, professors, or anyone else about who comes to counseling or what happens during counseling.  There are some legal exceptions to this, such as when an individual is a danger to him/herself or others.



To see a Wellness Coach, check the hours posted outside the door (or on our Facebook page) for times that a Coach is available, and just walk in.  You may also email lima_swc@osu.edu to schedule an appointment.  

To participate in outreach programming from either SWC or LCCS, watch for announcements on Facebook (SWC or LCCS) or postings around campus for information about topics, dates, & times.

To see one of the therapists / counselors at LCCS, you may call, email, or stop in to make an appointment.