It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas — and Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, and Festivus. The weather outside is frightful, or at least the SoCal equivalent of frightful — below 70 degrees — and although we don’t have a delightful fire, my apartment is equipped with a lovely “antique” heater that provides plenty of warmth in addition to an enticing pre-electric-fire aroma. With cozy sweaters, cuddling on the couch, piping hot peppermint mochas, and plenty of post-finals downtime to look forward to, it’s no surprise that winter is a season that is often associated with the word wonderland.
But even all the holiday cheer — and holiday music that I’m already sick of — in the air can’t change the fact that sometimes life can be harder to handle than a tangled mess of tinsel. And cold weather plus impending finals plus the added stress of winter quarter fees to pay, presents to buy, and vacations to plan can be pretty overwhelming. Add any sort of extra tension to that equation, and it’s no surprise that winter is also a season associated with its very own form of depression, the aptly termed and even more aptly acronymed: seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
According to an extensive search of the Google dictionary, seasonal affective disorder is a mood disorder that often occurs during the winter months and is characterized by depression, lethargy, and carbohydrate cravings among other things. I know I’m not the only one whose been tearing up at Sex and the City reruns, skipping class to sleep in, and overdoing it on the tasty treats — my roommate’s fantastic peanut butter fudge to be exact. Now, I don’t think I have SAD, but as cheesy as the following segue is going to sound, I have definitely been sad — and profoundly so — during my college career. And, since winter is a time when shorter days, colder weather, the emotions and expectations of the holidays, and the abundance of cute cuddling couples combine to create extra stress and, sometimes, sadness in plenty of people, I figure it can’t hurt to share what I learned during my own period of profound sadness.
You see, last winter, the combination of an unexpected and painful death in my family and an unexpected and painful case of acute bronchitis sent me straight into a bout of deep depression. And, even though my friends, family, and co-workers were amazing about everything, I still don’t know if I would have managed to make it through last winter quarter had it not been for the stellar support I received from some of the services listed below. So, since winter is once again upon us, I figured I’d take this time to take a break from buying presents, decorating every empty inch of wall-space in my house, and tearing apart that tempting tin of fudge to share info about some of the resources that helped me get through my own period of wintertime blues.
First of all, there’s plenty of free help on campus and in the I.V. community for struggling, stressed-out, and just plain sad students. UCSB Counseling and Career Services is a great resource for short-term counseling, crisis information, stress management advice, group counseling, and more. All of their services are free and confidential, and their staff is well-trained to give you the best objective, intelligent, and helpful advice that your student fees can buy. Plus, it’s right on campus, so getting there won’t add any extra stress to your life and if they can’t help you, they can send you straight to someone who will. Their hours vary during the weeks leading up to and during winter break, but if you call 893-4411 or stop into Building 599 on campus, they can hook you right up with someone who can help you out with almost anything.
Sure, everyone has horror stories about Student Health. But that’s to be expected whenever you’re dealing with a relatively small operation trying to take care of an entire university’s worth of students and staff. And, overall, it is an amazing resource for relatively low-cost, high-quality healthcare. When it comes to depression, anxiety, and stress, student health offers psychiatric services and health educators that can also provide competent counseling about eating disorders, drug and alcohol issues, sexual health, and more. Plus, they manage to cram a whole lot of doctors, nurses, and experts into that little building on El Colegio Road, so you know there’s got to be someone there who can help you out or help you find someone who can. Call 893-5361 for more information.
There are also plenty of people and places off-campus that specialize in providing counseling and care to students and local residents looking for a little extra help handling life’s trials, tensions, and tribulations. A fairly complete list of these resources is available by clicking here. To connect with local clergy and other spiritual folks, check out UCSB Hillel at ucsbhillel.org, islavistachurch.org, saintmikesucsb.org and the Bhakti Yoga Club of UCSB at orgs.sa.ucsb.edu/yoga. This is by no means an exhaustive list and, as a simple Google search proves, similar resources in this area are more abundant than those cute cuddling couples who make everyone else jealous around Christmastime.
I couldn’t possibly hope to cover every counseling service in I.V. via one little column, but hopefully this info can give you a jumping-off point to start seeking out your own forms of solace during times of sadness — whether the cause is winter weather or not. Because let’s face it, fudge is great and all, but when it comes to tackling serious stuff, nothing beats talking things out with another person or group. Plus, talking doesn’t have any calories in it — which means you won’t have to worry about working off all that weight, literally or figuratively, once winter sadness gives way to springtime swimsuit weather.