News Article

Feeling SAD? A guide to Seasonal Affective Disorder

The clocks have gone back, the days are getting shorter, temperatures dropping and the deadlines piling on. After a hectic start to first term of university, it is important to check in on your mental health and wellbeing. Especially with such a large international students population coming from countries which, let’s face it, have a much milder climate than here in the UK, it is incredibly common for students to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), as an accumulation of all of these things. Also known as ‘winter blues’, these symptoms are usually worse during Winter. 

man covering face with both hands while sitting on bench 

Symptoms 

This varies depending on many things, but it can include: 

  • Lack of energy 

  • Finding it hard to concentrate 

  • Feeling isolated and not wanting to see people 

  • Difficulty with sleep 

  • Feeling sad, low, tearful, guilty, or hopeless 

  • Changes in appetite 

  • Suffering with more physical health problems (including the dreaded freshers’ flu…) 

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder? 

For students, in addition to the stresses at university, the causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder are believed to be due to reduced sunlight during shorter days of Autumn and Winter, resulting in lower serotonin hormone levels and higher melatonin (a hormone stimulating fatigue) levels. 

cloudy sky 

Combatting Seasonal Affective Disorder 

Everyone experiences Seasonal Affective Disorder differently. Whilst some of us may be able to alleviate the symptoms ourselves, sometimes you need more help, from a professional.  

Mild symptoms can typically be: 

  • Feeling down but still able to take care of yourself and others 

  • Having some trouble sleeping 

  • Having less energy than usual but still able to do your job, housework and schoolwork. 

For this you can try any of these 10 things: 

  • Peer Support 

The Campus Conversations team offer peer support delivered by students, for students. They create student-only spaces where we can connect, socialise and learn from one another. They offer weekly in-person activities, one to one conversations and student skills workshops 

  • Looking at the wellbeing hub 

The KCLSU Wellbeing Hub offers activities, events, resources and more to help boost your wellbeing. 

  • Get involved with a Student Activity Group 

Here at King’s we have over 400 activity groups. You could try a new hobby with others, a new sport, volunteering, or just meeting new people! There’s something for everyone. 

  • Activity 

Moving your body with a walk at the beginning of the day helps to wake up your mind and body. 

  • Sleep 

The NHS recommends adjusting your sleep schedule so that you can try and get as much sunlight as possible. This means setting early alarms (I know!) and getting up at the same time to regulate your body clock. 

  • Nutrition 

During this time, you may feel a craving for fattier foods and sweets (who doesn’t love a good takeaway?). But diet changes may be needed. Make sure you keep hydrated and eat healthier foods. Diet changes may also be needed. For instance, you should make sure to keep hydrated and eat healthier foods. This Wellbeing Week, King’s Sport and Wellness are doing a Nutrition Session, so now is your chance to get some advice! 

  • Light, light light 

Firstly, get outside as much as you can to boost your serotonin levels! After dark, having a night light or lightbox is a great way to emulate natural light. This helps to convince your body that you are receiving more of it. 

white leaf plants covered with tall trees