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Are you SAD?

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bangor clockAs the nights become longer an unfortunate side-effect is seen within human beings. The majority of us begin to notice our moods becoming lower, our energy levels dropping, just at a time when the pressures of University workload begin to pile on. Why is this happening? Well, the chances are you’re suffering from SAD.

“Suffering from SAD?” I hear you say, “That sentence can’t be right?!”. But SAD is actually short for Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that’s linked to the changing of the seasons. While it can develop at any time of the year when the levels of daylight encountered drastically change, according to the NHS it typically affects more people, and tends to be more severe, during winter. In fact, SAD is thought to affect nearly 2 million people in the UK, and unfortunately due to the nature of most students’ indoor led academic lifestyles, they are at a greater risk of suffering from it this winter.

As with all mental illness, prevention isn’t possible, but there are things you can do to lessen your burden this winter.

1.          Go Outside When You Can.

This may seem like an obvious response, but as the frequency of looking outside and seeing torrential rain increases, more and more students will choose to forsake an outdoor activity for a film marathon under the duvet. As tempting as this may be, do try and head out when the weather breaks, especially around midday when the sun (even if you can’t see it behind a cloud) will be stronger. If the weather doesn’t allow for this every day (this is Wales!) try and position yourself next to windows so you can still see some natural light.

2.          Watch What You Eat

Research shows that suffering from SAD makes you crave short term highs to boost your mood; this therefore leads to binging on sugars and carbohydrates. A better solution is to try and incorporate more Vitamin D rich foods into your diet (Vitamin D is the vitamin produced by our bodies when it’s exposed to sunlight, so it needs a helping hand during winter). These foods include oily fish like salmon or sardines, dairy products, mushrooms, soy products and eggs.

3.          Take Care of Another Living Thing

Taking care of a living thing has been proven to help people come out of depression quicker. Plants are a cheap way of accessing a living thing as they are sold quite cheaply in supermarkets all around Bangor – a potted flower to brighten a room would be best. If you live in accommodation that allows you to keep pets, this too is an option, but please don’t buy a pet unless you honestly intend to take the utmost care of it and spend your money on its upkeep as well as your own.

4.          Take Up a New Hobby

‘There’s no better time to pick up a new hobby than during University’. That line was given to everyone during their Fresher’s week, and whether you’re a first, second, third year or above this still rings true. Maybe you signed up to a club and still receive those e-mails about their activities? It’s never too late to jump in and try something new, especially if it gets you out of the house and stops you alienating yourself from people – a classic sign of depression.

5.          Seek Help

If your symptoms persist or you feel they’re getting worse, the best advice is to seek help. Contact your GP and describe your symptoms – it may be a sign of something else entirely. Sometimes it also helps just to talk it through with a neutral party. In this case, Bangor University has fully trained counsellors that can be reached by ringing 01248 388520 or e-mailing counselling@bangor.ac.uk

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Sara Lloyd Williams

Health and Beauty Editor 2013/14

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