Counselor speaks on Seasonal Affective Disorder

Hannah Hippensteel, Features Reporter

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The advent of spring is marked with warmer weather and fun activities. And for people on college campuses, spring is also accompanied with the reminder that summer is near.

But the adjustment period from winter to spring is not always a smooth one, according to Winona State University’s social worker and counselor, Eunie Alsaker.

Alsaker, a Winona State faculty member since 2003, has helped students overcome the “mid-semester slump” for 16 years.

“Students expect school to be almost done after spring break and fail to reacclimate to their routine. That’s where they get hit with the slump,” Alsaker said.

The annual slump can be connected to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Symptoms for seasonal affective disorder, or SAD for short, are the same as clinical depression and occur on a seasonal pattern. Typically, it gets better as sunlight and temperatures increase.

“Students going through SAD may experience changes in sleep pattern and appetite, loss of energy or motivation and social withdrawal,” Alsaker said.

Effects of SAD impact people differently and makes coping a varied process. The individualistic nature of SAD is made harder when faced with mental illness stigmas while seeking treatment.

One hinderance in attempts to decrease SAD symptoms is stress. To combat SAD, students who feel stressed are recommended to work on organization, concentration and stress management.

“Focusing on what students are doing now as opposed to zooming ahead to future worries is important,” Alsaker said.

On-going counseling, walk-in services and educational programs around mental health are some opportunities students can take advantage of to prevent stress.

Alsaker gave a few suggestions for students who want to ward off symptoms of SAD and the “slump.”

“Find informal support on top of counseling. Exercise. Have events to look forward to rather than just

making it to the end of the semester. Pay attention to what feels meaningful in your life and identify something to be grateful for in each day,” Alsaker said.

Alsaker said students often choose Winona State for the beautiful surroundings but do not often venture off-campus when they arrive. She encourages students to explore.

Students can ice climb, kayak along the rivers and utilize the trails. They can see live music and arts at events like the Frozen River Film Festival, Great River Shakespeare Festival or Boats n’ Bluegrass.

Because there’s so much going on this time of year, checking the Winona Visitors’ Bureau or Winona Parks and Recreation can helps students stay up-to-date on local events.