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As winter rolls around, the moods of Townsend Harris High School students drop as fast as the temperature. This is attributed to “winter blues” but sometimes can be more serious. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a depression that coincides with the seasons. More common in northern states than southern ones, SAD affects the lives of many. Whether it is SAD or just a noticeable drop in mood during the colder seasons, THHS students must find a way to cope with the onset of this fog on top of their already overwhelming lives.
Guidance Counselor Justine Meyer notices this difference in her students and attributes it to “neverending work.” She continues, “A lot of it seems to be around holiday times, especially right before December break. When it starts getting darker earlier, there are bounds of tardiness and an influx of students coming to talk to us.”
Fellow Guidance Counselor Jeremy Wang agrees and believes, “When the days are shorter [and the] temperature goes down, that’s when students become a bit more mellow and subdued and overall less cheerful.”
For junior Stefan Mirkovic, the change is related to the lack of outdoor activities and the stress of school. “During the winter I spend a lot more time indoors because of the weather compared to the other three seasons,” he explains. “With finals, collaterals, and everything else it’s a lot of work.”
However, for freshman Danielle Amster, the onset of gloom comes with the shorter days of the winter. She explains, “The main reason is because it gets dark so early. It’s depressing to get home from school at 5:00 PM and it already be dark outside, forcing me to feel like it’s later than it actually is.”
As far as how they choose to handle the shift in mood, Stefan tries to “get out as much as [he] can, and be with people who make [him] happy and make [him] laugh.”
Biology teacher and COSA Sarah Oberlander attempts to explain this change of mood, “Your body can actually create hormones with the help of sunlight, so it turns out there’s a gland in the brain that receives messages from your eyes. So, when your eyes don’t receive enough sunlight, the messages aren’t sent to the brain.”
She also adds, “People can lack neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin in different times of the year which causes them to feel less outgoing, more withdrawn, and especially sad.”
As far as battling the onset of the winter blues, Mrs. Meyer and Mr. Wang have tips for students. “We enforce taking care of yourself,” Mrs. Meyer says.
She adds, “We take care of ourselves and find a balance within the entire year. [There are] still times when you reach the breaking point, but that’s okay. We just want them to be healthy; Go out for a walk, treat yourself for ice scream…Self care is not selfish.”
Mr Wang agrees and states, “At this time even if you don’t have outdoor activities, be in touch with your friends, hold activities intentionally, be involved with indoor sports activities like basketball and swimming.”
He insists that despite the darkness of the winter months, they all have something hopeful: “A common thing between holidays that occur in the winter is always light. The days seem to be mostly dark out, but these holidays all represent light…so think of that- remember to be light.”