By: Alexa Ramirez
As we get further into the intense Minnesota winter, many people have become affected by seasonal depression. This being something so common in a place with such a long winter, I wanted to explore how it is, or can be connected to school, and how that can change.
By definition, seasonal depression is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. It typically ends at about the same time every year and affects people most during fall and winter months. Mayo Clinic has reported that 44% of students experience seasonal depression, and it left me wondering how it may have affected, or be affecting, our student community here at Highland.
To start these interviews, I chose to keep them anonymous and to keep them simple. I asked them 1. How they think seasonal depression and schoolwork are connected for them, or for students around them, and 2. What advice they’d give to someone struggling with seasonal depression. These were all freshman students who are experiencing their first winter at this school, and I gave them full range with their answers. These were their responses:
Student 1: “I get slight seasonal depression, and it’s mostly based on how gray it is. The weather throws me off so much and it’s hard to deal with. And yes, school is a factor. Being worried about having everything turned in by winter break is stressful, plus having homework while even having a break is worse. For teachers to assign homework to students who will be on vacation or with their family, it’s hard to do all the homework. I know that this year is the last day of my break. I spent a long time catching up on work. I’d say it’s connected because teenagers (aka us) are already stressed about it in the first place. Also, having more and more homework loaded on top of each other even though teachers haven’t graded during the break also brings stress, because it might be too late to make up for not-so-great work.”
“Advice I’d give would probably be to take a while to yourself. I spend all my breaks either with my family, stressing, or doing homework, also stressing a bit. So, just taking a while to do absolutely nothing for a little bit helped me a lot.”
Student 2: “I think the winter makes me lose interest in doing my schoolwork because of how dark and cold it is here. Also, since right now we’re in the stretch of having fewer breaks we get a lot of homework and projects and the bad weather and little sunlight makes it difficult for me to have motivation and want to get stuff done.”
“I would recommend studying or doing your schoolwork with other people to get motivation, and not being afraid to ask your teachers for another day or two to finish an assignment you’re having a tough time with. I also think that it’s important to not only spend time in school and at home, I think it’s good to get out of the house when you can. as well as reaching out to your friends and family to spend time together.”
Student 3: “They are connected cause school work relies on your mental health to be stable and good and seasonal depression usually happens during the winter months when school is at its hardest”
“My advice would be to ask for help and find things that occupy your time other than school.”
My overall takeaway from these interviews was that any student experiencing seasonal depression is definitely not alone! Many people are experiencing it in their own way, or give it some kind of thought. Along with their recommendations, some things a reader struggling with, or experiencing, seasonal depression could do would be:
– Looking for clubs or sports in school that might fill any free time you don’t want
– Be active. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme, make sure you’re listening to yourself. But doing things like going on walks, playing sports, or any fun activity outside, have been shown to help especially during the winter months when time outside is hardest to achieve, is when it’s most important to make an effort to get outside and catch any sun there may be.
– Try new things. Recently this winter, I’ve been trying yoga classes which have been fun for me to do and have given me a new focus. Things like those or like new books and shows can be helpful for someone looking for a new activity to put your energy towards.
– Take care of yourself. Doing the simple things go a long way in making you feel accomplished and fulfilled. Making sure you’re making your bed, showering, drinking water and eating enough, and spending time with loved ones are all examples of small things that make a big difference.
Of course, everyone’s experience is different and what works for me or for the people interviewed in this article might not be the same for everyone, and at the end of the day reaching out is always a good idea.
Some sources here in Minnesota made just for teens can be found on: https://www.mnteenmentalhealth.org.