Imagine a grade-school teacher in 2018, telling their students, “we’re gonna talk about mental health today kids.” And here were are, “talking” about it. Mental health is not limited to just a disease; it’s an everyday battle and you have to maintain it daily. Some are better than others, and that’s okay. But there is an especially brutal time of the year where we are more susceptible to mood disorders.
And that my friend is what we call Seasonal Affective Disorder, or, ironically, SAD. Studies have shown that nearly 6% of Americans will suffer from depression-like symptoms during the winter time and about 15% suffer a mild form of it. At the same time though, studies have shown that SAD may not even exist, according to an article published in the Scientific American in March of 2016, where the study showed there was no correlation between mood and the time of year for survey participants. Even light didn’t play a big role in the study.
So that makes me wonder, is it just made up? Do we not force ourselves as a society to be jolly and cheer during the darkest and coldest times of the year? Is it in our nature to hibernate like mammals do but instead we become sleep deprived? I don’t have the answers, and I doubt Sway does either.
What I do know is that SAD is a real phenomenon if not a real diagnosis. One problem I had with the study explained in the Scientific American article was that they used surveys for assessment of mood. I feel that if anything, it is more so a biological phenomenon.
During the winter, we get less sunlight during a full day and obviously it’s a lot colder. We are not cold-blooded animals. These conditions throw off our body’s equilibrium, some just deal with it better than others. It makes sense that the holidays occur during these times (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannakuh, Kwanza, New Years) so we can overstimulate ourselves to block out the feelings of sadness and loneliness.
I won’t go as far as to say that this is a worldwide problem and something needs to be done immediately, it’s just that some people have to deal with it and sometimes are too weak to fight the conditions. As someone who deals with depression and anxiety, I will say that it’s not easy, but not impossible either.
With that being said, there is one thing during this season that we can all value and feed off of, and that is each other. Family, friends, strangers, you name it. If there’s one thing that’s true during the holiday season is that people are noticeably more kind to each other. Whether it is genuine, or just a mask to cover our own crippling anxiety, being good to each other is essential and usually expected around this time of year.
Another important and oftentimes overlooked thing that helps immensely, are hugs. Yes, hugs are essential to a human’s well-being. Being touched enhances the serotonin connections in your brain and builds endorphins. Make sure if you’re seeing extended family, immediate family, friends, friends of friends, or homeless people at the food bank, hug hug hug hug one another. It’s the purest form of love we can show to each other.
On behalf of the brown turtle, I wish all my readers a safe and enjoyable holiday*.
P.S.* I was going to post this before the holidays, but couldn’t for reasons beyond my control. SAD unfortunately affects people all throughout the winter so it is still relevant.