How to get through seasonal depression and homesickness

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The weather is quickly changing from warm to cold, changing not only our wardrobes, but our emotions as well. There could be many reasons for this shift, but a big factor is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), more commonly known as Seasonal Depression. SAD is a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time each year, most commonly in winter, but people most often start exhibiting symptoms in the fall. Common symptoms include sleeping too much, being overly emotional i.e. crying more than usual, and overeating.

Seasonal depression is known to hit college students more because we are known to stay up later and sleep in, therefore minimally exposing ourselves to sunlight in the colder months. All of the workload of classes, working a job, anything else that takes up an individual’s time, and taking care of ourselves on top of that is a big stressor on anyone’s life. Students have experienced a change in their normal biological circadian rhythms while being in college. Going from being with family everyday, to being independent, to living with strangers who hopefully become close friends, to choosing close friends to live with if possible.

Homesickness also accounts for being seasonally depressed. Statistics show that 66% of college freshman report feeling lonely or homesick. At Marymount, a poll that was taken shows that 60% of students seem to be feeling unhappy as the weather is getting colder and drearier, and 55% of students feel that that weather is making them homesick. Homesickness is apparent in everyone, regardless of age or how well you’ve adjusted to living here in NYC. It may not be as apparent as new college students, but it’s still there. The same as Seasonal Depression. It becomes noticeable in us all in some way or another around this time. “With SAD, the best treatment would be light and psychoeducation , which is the understanding of why they feel less well when the hours of darkness increase.For adjustment issues, we provide strategies to help navigate new environments and remind students of their internal resources,” said Dr. Neda Hajizadeh, Director of the Counseling and Wellness Center, when explaining how homesickness and seasonal depression warrant different interventions.

“Often times recognizing that having trouble adjusting is normal is extremely helpful,”said Dr. Hajizadeh.

It’s the first step that you need to take to realize help is what is needed and to become aware of the resources available to you, such as the Counseling and Wellness Center. When students come in with the feeling of homesickness or adjustment issues, The Counseling and Wellness Center faculty try to remind them that they are more in control of their experience than they think, so normalizing, validating and providing a strategy that will help them feel more connected to their new environment is key. Limited interaction with “home” to help them make strong connections in their “new home” is highly encouraged by the CWC. Take advantage of the resources MMC offers if you are feeling seasonally depressed or homesick. You are most definitely not alone if you are feeling homesick, seasonally depressed or both.