The Winter Blues


Sarah Lombard

Everyone loves the winter season, right?  What isn’t there to love as it’s the holiday season? Well, during the winter, seasonal depression takes a toll on many. Many teenagers deal with seasonal depression and most of them don’t even know it.

But what is seasonal depression? Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is depression that occurs the same time every year. In the article, Seasonal Affective Disorder, in TeenHealth, it states that seasonal depression is “an unexplained fatigue as winter approaches and daylight hours become shorter” and “shorter days and longer hours of darkness in fall and winter may cause increased levels of melatonin and decreased levels of serotonin, creating the biological conditions for depression.”  No one really understands how and why this happens. 

However, there is a lot more to know about seasonal depression than just what causes it. While the day light becomes shorter so does the motivation for teenagers. Seasonal depression affects many more day-to-day things besides motivation. With holidays coming up, usually people are very joyful and excited for what is to arrive; however a big effect of SAD is a lack of enjoyment and a loss of interest in things someone usually enjoys. With the sun disappearing earlier, so does our energy, causing tiredness and a change in our sleep. This can make us want to sleep more than usual. Some symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include, low energy, grades dropping by lack of concentrating, loss of enjoyment and many other symptoms. 

To learn more about how to overcome the dreadful  depression of winter, I interviewed Sydney Lauer who is a senior at IHS and Liz  Lombard who is a parent of two daughters. An important question I asked them both is if they have ever experienced SAD and how did they overcome it. Sydney quickly responded with, “Yes, almost every year when the seasons change to winter time, I feel like I lose my focus and motivation. I am especially a lot more tired. I think instead of trying to force yourself to overcome it, just take every day as it comes. What helps me is keeping myself in a routine, not letting my fatigue get to me all the time, and  hanging out with friends and family.” 

Teenagers’ schedules are always changing based on their interests and lifestyle. Most teens are always on a constant go; with SAD hitting, it is hard to keep up with their interests and their daily schedule. A perfect example to help keep busy was shared by Sydney, “keep hanging out with friends and family”. 

I asked the same question to Liz, she replied with, “Staying busy always helps me and my family. When we have down time and no reason to be productive, it creates opportunities for sadness, depression, and anxiety.” I also added on to the question and asked her, “If you could give advice to a struggling teen with seasonal depression, what would it be?” The mother said, “I would recommend keeping kids active during all seasons can help and also making sure kids have structure during each season can help. The ebs and flows of life can be hard, but if we keep kids on a routine, it is easier for them to stay busy and focused.” 

The research I conducted on Seasonal Depression introduced me to light therapy as an approach to overcome SAD. I also learned that light keeps spirits up. Weirdly enough the main reason this type of depression exists is because of the light we lose. The loss of light is what causes our brain to send out chemical reactions that cause us to feel down. Light therapy does not cure SAD; however, it may ease symptoms by increasing your energy levels and help you feel better about yourself and life. Even though light therapy can be expensive, there are many cheap options online to buy from.

I understand now that SAD is real. As a teenager, I am sure I have suffered from this over the years. Even this week with the cold weather, the darkness coming at 4:30 pm, and with a global pandemic, I have lost interest in most things. I want to stay in my room under the covers. I am working hard to keep a schedule and a routine to stay engaged but I really see how SAD can keep you from wanting to do anything during the winter.