Beating the Winter Blues: Wellness Institute Offers Workshop to Combat Winter Woes

Jenn Marshall

The Shaw Wellness Institute held a workshop, “How to Beat the Winter Blues”, led by counseling staff pyschologist Julie Hawkins on February 12.

“It is an ongoing process. It is all about managing the feelings of depression in practical ways,” Hawkins said.

The Winter Blues can be defined by mood depression experienced during the winter months. Symptoms include feeling lethargic, difficulty concentrating, blaming oneself for unfortunate circumstances, craving carbs and a lack of energy. Nearly 25 percent of college students experience these symptoms of the winter blues.

The decrease in hours of sunlight during this time period causes changes in neurotransmitters. The disruption of one’s circadian rhythm can lead to feelings of depression.

The workshop provided remedies for symptoms of the winter blues. Some simple changes that can be made to overcome the blues includes exercising and playing, both of which are great for endorphins, eating healthy to boost energy level, getting some light with light boxes or vitamin D, spending more time with people you feel boosted by, such as supportive friends, working on sleep strategies by aiming for a healthy eight hours and practicing stress management through finding an emotional outlet like journaling, yoga, meditation, positive thinking and relaxation.

It is also important to know when to seek help. The winter blues becomes a serious problem when it gets to the point when it prevents one from doing things one would normally do. If after making the recommended changes one still feels depressed, it is the time to get a professional opinion. Seasonal Affective Disorder is the next level of winter blues. Regular counseling with a

therapist can be very helpful.

Hawkins commented that the farther from the equator, the more likely one is to be affected by the winter blues. Therefore, it is important for Colgate students to be aware of these remedies.

“It is specific to Colgate because the university is full of go-getters and overachievers. Students have a tendency to be overcommitted and involved in many activities. They forget to take care of themselves and sleep is the first thing

sacrificed,” Hawkins said.

When students are night owls, they get no melatonin which further contributes to the winter blues. She even notes that students who come from areas where it is warm and humid year round can get more bogged down than students who are accustomed to the weather because of the shock to

their system.

Many students utilized the informative workshop.

“I attended because I have these symptoms. You feel stuck in a rut and it is nice to know how to help,” junior Rachel Hangley said.

“Lots of times in society there is this binary outlook, you are either happy or sad,” junior Cindy Gaete said. “The speaker really pointed out how there is a spectrum and that it’s okay for you to have bad days. Life is a rollercoaster.”

Those who attended the workshop talked about their personal methods for combating the winter blues.

“I try to make it to the gym more and understand it’s a normal part of winter. Everyone is going through the same thing,” sophomore Leah Robinson said.

According to the workshop, drinking during the winter blues actually does more harm than good because alcohol is a depressant and it often takes days to clean the body of toxins. Alcohol actually contributes to the winter blues by causing further anxiety, causing

negative feedback.

Though winter is a cause of stress for many, it is also appreciated as a staple of Colgate. Cozying up to a fire, playing in the snow or hanging out with friends and sipping hot cocoa indoors while the polar vortex rages outside is part of the appeal of this place. Understanding that weather can affect one’s mood, especially with midterms approaching, it is suggested to adopt the necessary and practical changes recommended by the Institute.