After receiving two feet of snow and being confined to your bed or couch, you might start feeling less energetic or down. Finishing your favorite TV series on Netflix is not to blame for your sudden lack of enthusiasm. In fact, the irritability towards your roommates dish washing habits (or lack of) could be a case of the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is a milder form of depression felt during late fall or early winter and goes away during the brighter days of spring.1 Neither case should be ignored if symptoms persist but here are five ways City Year AmeriCorps members can overcome the winter blues.
A reliable way to maintain energy is by exercising more. AmeriCorps members might find it nearly impossible to exercise because of their busy schedules and freezing temperature. However, working in schools provides plenty of opportunities to remain active. Participating in your student’s gym class offers you a great chance at exercise. Not only will your students appreciate you for joining in on the fun but it relieves stress and anxiety. Gathering teammates to play basketball or kickball after service can also be effective.
Bask in the Winter Sun.
Sunlight is scarce during the winter hours, especially as AmeriCorps members. We are out the door before sunrise and heading home after sunset. Nevertheless, finding time in the sunlight should be a priority. If your students partake in recess you should grab your winter jacket and head outside with them. Maximize your time with natural light and open up window blinds at your home or in your classroom if you are allowed to do so.
Get some Z’s.
Hitting the snooze button over and over feels great in the moment but it can hurt you in the long run. Sticking to a regular sleeping pattern is vital to a leveled balance of melatonin for your body.2 Staying up later than normal to play another game of FIFA can disrupt your internal circadian rhythm and leads to feelings of depression. As AmeriCorps members we deserve all the sleep we can get, but oversleeping might be harmful to our resilience long term.
Fuel your Body.
The winter blues can lower your serotonin levels which leads to more “cravings”. You might be more tempted to eat foods high in carbohydrates, and sugar.3 Although that Red Bull might give you the energy you desperately crave it will have adverse effects later on. If the traditional three meals a day is not sufficing your energy needs, try five to six smaller meals throughout the day. Food high in fiber like: broccoli, artichokes, beans, whole wheat pasta, and raspberries help maintain healthy sugar levels. If you cannot shake the cravings for sweet, choose healthier sweets like fruit or dark chocolate and avoid processed foods.4
Do your best to remain social with teammates and friends. Social support when you are feeling a bit SAD is very important. Reaching out to family members or old friends could be the mood booster you need. It is easy to stay away from your social circle and hibernate during the winter but it will not help in boosting your happiness or energy levels.
Be Bright for your Students!
Lastly, if you are feeling down, remember what you mean to the students you serve. You are their cheerleader, their role model, the smile that greets them in the morning and encourages them to try their hardest. For many, you are the bright spot of the day. So do just that, be bright! Your attitude will be reflected in the conversations and interactions you have with them. Your influence on their day matters!
Written by Ivan Vivar, City Year Philadelphia AmeriCorps Member serving on the Civic Engagment Team
Photo by John Card, 2015 City Year Boston AmeriCorps Member
More Advice for AmeriCorps members can be found here: Advice from Second Year Corps Members