Far from the pressing deadlines and culminating modules of November and December, and out of the strange shock of having to spend an intense period of time with extended family, January should mark a calm and refreshing return to a new term at QMUL. Yet for some, the prospect of January and February in London is a dirge: waking up to a white sky every morning in East London feels like waking up underwater, and without considerable change in the already underwhelming weather, the days seem to coagulate into one large, insufferably blank routine. The only change to this routine being classes and deadlines. Whereas the Christmas season provided a cheerful cushion with songs that celebrated the cold and romanticised the snow, there is no celebratory respite from the freezing sludge of January.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is the more Pagan cousin of generalised depression: whereas depression is nonexclusive in it’s scheduling, SAD (with it’s bitingly tongue-in-cheek acronym) refers to an increased sensitivity to seasonal patterns and the psychological effects of the changing climate. The symptoms for Seasonal Affective Disorder resemble that of any generalised anxiety and depression, including but not limited to: general apathy or agitation, increased or decreased appetite, feelings of worthlessness, and sudden weight gain or loss.
Many of us QM students have come to realise that maintaining one’s mental health in London can be a difficulty in itself. Despite having the bubble of our campus, we are still very much immersed in a metropolis that can seem massive and isolating. As many of us are commuters, and many of us travel on the daily to get from one end of the city to the other, the feeling of spatial disorientation can sometimes be overwhelming, and life can already seem a bit all over the place. Though many of us would not have it any other way, the combination of unchanging days as well as the metropolitan lifestyle of running around in circles, makes Londoners distinctly susceptible to the stress of grey days.
In Primary School we were once assigned a science experiment in which plants had to grow in variable conditions: one without water, one without light, and one with both. Obviously the unwatered one did not sprout and and the fully normal one turned out green and leafy. However, the most captivating plant was the one that grew with no light- it’s form remained intact, but the plant was a kind of sickly white colour. Just like the plants in this experiment, human beings- especially those students spending long hours holed up in the library- are in need of Vitamin D and sunshine.
A common resource for those who believe they are suffering with SAD at the onset of the winter months is light therapy with a SAD lamp: an LED light that one sits in front of in the morning to early afternoon to absorb the light that cannot be obtained through natural means. London can feel massive and overwhelming at any time of the year, however, nobody should be put off enjoying all the city has to offer because of the weather.
So do not let yourself become a victim of SAD this January, brave the cold weather and step outside to explore what London has to offer and to elevate your spirits in the crisp winter air. Most importantly, if you are feeling a little weighed down, then talk to someone – I personally find talking the best form of therapy as you soon realise you are not alone.