As October slowly turns into November and the days become shorter… when professors seem to get together and plan their students’ demise with mid-terms and projects… when homecoming comes to an end, students, faculty and the average person may become overwhelmed and depressed due to life’s daily offerings.
The causes of depression vary based on an individual’s personal circumstances. It is oftentimes triggered when a person feels so overwhelmed by multiple circumstances that the depression begins to interfere with their daily functions and affects the quality of their life.
However, the general public often defines depression differently. Just because people feel sadness, are upset or are having a bad day does not mean that they are depressed. Symptoms of depression include fatigue, poor concentration and motivation, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, decreased interest in activities previously enjoyed and thoughts of suicide.
With these symptoms, Dr. Kelsey Richmond, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point Counseling Center, explains that depression is different than normal emotional responses to daily life.
“We feel sadness and grief at the end of a relationship, disappointment and failure when we fail a big test. We cry when we are hurting. It’s important to differentiate between expected painful feelings to painful life circumstances and depression,” Richmond said.
Starting at the end of fall through the winter, seasonal blues are a common occurrence in people. While these feelings for many people do not interfere with the quality of their life, seasonal blues can turn into full depression.
“We live in a very active community – people like to do a lot of outdoor activities and enjoy the sun and good weather,” Richmond said. “That can be challenging when the weather starts turning cold and gloomy. It’s also a time of year with a lot of stress, especially for students. The academic demands are mounting, and there is less daylight to study.”
Richmond explained that there are many ways that people can manage their symptoms without seeking help. Participating in enjoyable activities is one of the easiest ways to prevent seasonal blues. Even maintaining a steady diet and exercising become a vital component in fighting the blues.
“Once people are up and moving, it’s much easier to enjoy what you are doing. The hardest part of getting re-engaged in life is starting,” Richmond said. “Research has shown that exercise and healthy eating improve mood. Our bodies and moods feel better when we are healthy.”
Theatre major Courtney Holly and education major Arielle Elms both explain how the seasonal blues affect their lives. Their stressors can range from anything to their personal life to academics. Both have something that stresses them out this time of the year.
“Around this time of the year, it’s the stress of the semester. Making sure that grades are where they need to be. It’s more of a fear of not growing artistically enough,” Holly said.
For Elms, finding housing for next year, trying to figure out a manageable schedule of classes for next semester and setting up an advising appointment are what stresses her out, but she finds a way to stay positive by resorting to what she enjoys doing.
“Yoga! I also enjoy dancing and watching movies. Both help me relax when I am stressing about something,” Elms said.
While Holly worries about not growing artistically, her passion for theatre and desire to grow in the art is ironically what stresses her out and what drives her to stay positive.
“I work harder, make sure that I feel confident in what I’m doing, remind myself why I do theatre,” Holly said. “I spend time with people I love. Call home. Sometimes I just lock myself in one of the practice rooms in the NFAC and just play the piano until my fingers are too sore. Or I sing.”
While students may have their own way of coping with stress to bring their spirits up, Richmond urged that those who need help should simply talk to friends and family.
“Talking aloud can bring about a new perspective and feeling understood and cared for makes us feel not so isolated and lonely. Talking with someone you care about who listens is enough to start feeling better,” Richmond said.
If students do need additional help, the Counseling Center is available on the third floor of Delzell Hall, or students can call (715) 346-3553 to set up an appointment. It offers confidential individual and group therapy services and is there to help students “better understand their concerns and themselves in order to make helpful changes.”
“I guess as a word of advice to people : don’t dwell,” Holly said. “Keep yourself busy and remind yourself why you’re here doing what you love.”