November 20, 2003

The Cold Weather Blues: How to Beat Them

Print More

They say Ithaca is Gorges, Cold, Gangsta and Long Island — but what about depressing?

With the coming of the cold weather, many Cornell students say that life gets dreary, but it doesn’t need to be. How to avoid the cold weather blues then?

An individual diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder experiences depression, awkward sleep patterns, overeating, a crave for carbohydrates and a diminished sex drive for at least two consecutive winters.

Most Cornell students who feel down about the coming of cold weather, however, do not necessarily meet this clinical criteria. “There is a clear distinction between real S.A.D and what most Cornell students have: your typical Ithaca doom and gloom,” explained James B. Maas, the S.H. Weiss Presidential Fellow of psychology.

So what should the majority of students do to feel better? “Hang in there … and take weekends in Florida as often as possible,” Maas recommended. While the academic calendar might not be so forgiving of the occasional beach trip, students have made a valiant effort to bring the beach to them.

“The background on my computer is a picture of the Bahamas,” said Michelle Lesser ’06.

In the dead of winter, “I put up Tahiti lights, turn on some Bob Marley and dance around my over-heated dorm room in a bathing suit; it’s like I can’t even tell the difference,” said Alison Janoski ’07.

Students have even brought sports indoors. While it may not be beach volleyball, “we play hockey in the hallway. It gets hot in here so the girls don’t usually feel the need to wear more than a sports bra; now it’s even more fun,” raved Matthew Estersohn ’07.

“On a toasty winter’s night, why not toast some marshmallows? We bought one of those S’mores makers … and have a veritable campfire in our room when we want it to feel like summer,” said Rachel Wolf ’06. “Trips to the Pyramid Mall are always fun too,” Wolf added.

Other indoor suggestions include making your apartment or room bright with lively colored walls, upholstery, bedding and lighting.

For those students who do, in fact, suffer from S.A.D, it is important to note that it is the dark that leads to disorder; not the cold. S.A.D is caused by “a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus due to the shortening of daylight hours and the lack of sunlight in winter,” according to S.A.D’s website.

Thus, students should get ready to “embrace the Ithaca winter,” if they really want to feel better, said Sharon J. Dittman, associate director of community relations at Gannett: Cornell University Health Services.

Many students have found Cornell’s climate to be excellent for some uplifting, outdoor fun. “We really have enough snow for everyone on campus to build a life-sized snowman for themselves and their mother,” said Doug Schnebel ’06.

“Grab a tray and go sled down Libe. Watch out for the trees!” advised Jahan Mohebali ’06.

Cornell offers Greek Peak for skiing and snowboarding, and Lynah Rink for ice-skating. “There are vast areas of untouched snow that are perfect for snow angels, and if you’re running low on Big Red Bucks, there’s food all around you! I love eating snow, except the yellow kind,” said Inna Kleyman ’06.

Other than through exposure to daylight, S.A.D is typically treated with light therapy. The National Mental Health Association recommends a “bank of white fluorescent lights on a metal reflector and shielded with a plastic screen.” High-powered light bulbs can be installed into dorm room lights for a similar effect.

“If you feel that you are unable to remedy your winter depression on your own, consider consulting a psychologist or psychiatrist through Counseling and Psychological Services at Gannett,” suggested Greg Eells, director of counseling and psychological services at Gannett.

“Get in the light, get a life,” Maas said.

Archived article by Erica Fink