It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
and Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, and Festivus.
santa.jpg 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
. 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
, 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
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

Sure, everyone has horror stories about Student
. 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,,
and the Bhakti Yoga Club of UCSB at 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.


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