Six more weeks of winter may result in mental health struggles

Photo courtesy of Heckrodt Wetland Reserve, Flickr.

Renowned groundhog Punxsutawney Phil popped out of his hole and saw his shadow two weeks ago, meaning that winter is prolonged for another six weeks this year. 

College students now face about one month or longer of a season that isn’t the friendliest. With one’s classes, homework, employment and social life being forced to linger in the shadows, the dull weather of winter can take a serious mental toll.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), affects about 10 million Americans each year, according to HealthResearchFunding. The typical age for SAD to begin developing in someone is around 20 years old the average age for those in undergraduate studies. 

One could assume that a large number of students here at Ramapo are affected by the winter and all its elements, especially up here in Mahwah where the air is thin. The snow, the freezing temperatures, ice and hail all make life from December to late March quite difficult. 

“I’m constantly sad, tired, and unmotivated this time of year,” said Lindsay Rulli, a junior history major. “I just need the temperature to rise already, for myself and for everyone else.” The average temperature of a winter day in Mahwah is 26 degrees Fahrenheit, and sometimes falls to under 10 degrees Fahrenheit, according to AccuWeather, which creates pseudo-ice rinks throughout the campus.  

“I dread walking and slipping to the Berrie Center from Laurel everyday, and that’s a short walk compared to some other people,” said Claudia Hastings, a junior theater major and Jersey Shore native. “I definitely miss the Jersey Shore and its beaches sometimes.” 

As someone from the Shore, I can certainly relate to Hastings and her homesickness. We’re used to the warm climate of the shore about eight months of the year. When the winter comes, though we may be on water with Raritan Bay or the Atlantic close by, the winters are not nearly as aggressive as the ones in Bergen County. 

There are days for me when starting my day and getting out of bed becomes more difficult. I am exhausted from having to worry about what flannel or jacket to wear before stepping outside. Mother nature has certainly taken her toll on me. I have gotten to the point that, even outside, I opt to not remove my mask in favor of the extra warmth for my face. 

So, how do we get through these last few harsh weeks of winter and battle SAD?

Ramapo offers multiple mental-health outlets for students who are feeling sad or unmotivated, as Rulli stated, such as resources from counseling and psychiatric services. 

One thing that I find to be helpful is regularly exercising between dealing with schoolwork. It helps me focus on the tasks I need to finish and gets me out of my dorm on days that are gloomier than others.

I recommend students spend more time outside, which can help them get used to this bleak weather that unfortunately seems to be sticking around for a while. The more time I spend outside here, dealing with the cold, the less it seems to bother me every time I leave Laurel Hall. 

Lastly, the biggest help to me is to think about the warm days ahead, with the walks to class in t-shirts and shorts. Besides, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information, our friend Phil has only been correct 40% of the time over the past decade.