Winter is Coming: a Student’s Guide to Seasonal Affective Disorder
by Shafer Higgins
As the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder, many of you may be feeling low on energy, less motivated, and just generally down in the dumps. You’re not alone; according to psychologytoday.com, as many as 10 million Americans suffer from what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, with 10 million more reporting milder versions of some of the symptoms. The symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, which often goes by the rather cheeky acronym SAD, include: tiredness, irritability, oversleeping while never feeling rested, appetite changes (particularly increased craving for carbohydrates), as well as loss of interest in activities and feelings of hopelessness similar to depression. While its exact causes remain a mystery, SAD appears to be at least in part a result of lower sunlight levels in the Winter and Fall months, a particularly inconvenient time for students as the worst of its effects can coincide with final exams and projects. If symptoms of SAD become severe enough, medical attention should be sought. However there are many simple and easy to implement methods to help avoid or alleviate symptoms of SAD.
Getting just 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise 4 or 5 times per week can do wonders for relieving symptoms of SAD. As one of the main features of SAD is low motivation, getting out and exercising to combat it can seem like a veritable Catch-22. But have no fear, “exercise” can mean something simple as a brisk walk. Try to time this walk around midday when that scarce winter sunlight is at its most plentiful. Speaking of sunlight…
As noted earlier, one of the primary causes of SAD is thought to be the relative lack of sunlight in the colder months of the year. Sunlight is essential for healthy functioning and is instrumental in the regulation of your biological clock as well as levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin, both of which have a hand in mood levels and sleep patterns. The lower quantity and quality of sunlight during SAD’s dark reign can be alleviated by what is known as a light box, an extra bright lamp meant to mimic the spectrum and intensity of sunlight. A review of some of the best light boxes available can be found here: http://thesweethome.com/reviews/best-light-therapy-lamp/.
One drawback is that they can be rather pricy for someone on a student’s budget. Depending on the severity of the problem, merely making a conscious effort to expose oneself to sunlight as much as possible during the day may be sufficient. Admittedly, a trek outdoors can be a daunting prospect in the dead of winter. For those short on cash and patience for the cold, there may be a solution: while not medically proven, some studies have suggested that exposure to normal artificial light in high doses may be beneficial. Which essentially just means making sure you are spending time in well lit interiors whenever possible.
Get more vitamin D
One of the main benefits of sunlight is that it provides the human body with much needed vitamin D which is essential for, among other things, the warding off of sluggishness and depression. However sunlight isn’t the only source of this essential vitamin. It can also be found in common foods such as salmon, tuna, mushrooms, eggs and any vitamin D fortified milk.
Vitamin D supplements exist as well, though it would be cost effective and doubly beneficial to simply integrate these relatively cheap and healthy foods into your diet as poor eating habits can have adverse effects on mood and energy levels.
It is widely held that smell is the sense most strongly associated with emotions, and this recognition could account in part for the explosion of aromatherapy in recent years. Exposure to certain essential oils, particularly bergamot, lemon, and most citrus-based oils, has been shown to elevate mood and sense of well-being. While it is one of the less scientific methods to combat SAD, it is also cheap, easy and poses little to no risk and therefore certainly worth a try.
Stick to a schedule
Maintaining a consistent daily schedule, especially with regards to sleep, can be particularly difficult for students who often have irregular daily schedules. But as erratic sleep patterns are a leading factor in SAD, it’s worth trying to regulate your day as best as you can if you find yourself afflicted with the “winter blues”. Waking up and going to bed around the same time every day has beneficial effects on your sleep. Even eating meals at regular intervals has been shown to stave off weight gain, which is a common side-effect of SAD.
Keep a journal
SAD mimics many aspects of depression, such as loss of interest and motivation as well as feelings of hopelessness. Journaling for around 20 minutes a day can be a useful and straightforward way to exorcise negative feelings as well as activating parts of the brain often left unstimulated during extended periods of low mood.
These are just some of the simple and low cost lifestyle tweaks that can be implemented in the battle against Seasonal Affective Disorder. Stay warm and stay chipper, folks. Winter is coming.
Driving home from Moab late at night in the spring of 2014, I was doing what we all do on long road trips: thinking. Something was missing in my life. I had just spent a week backpacking around the desert and had an unbelievable trip, but all I could think the entire time was how it would have been better with a companion. The next morning I took a trip to Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter in Bozeman, MT to “just look”. I don’t know much, but as soon as we caught each other’s eye I knew I had just met my soul hound. Waker has inflicted monumental impact on my every day life and this canine has made me a better human. I like to say I rescued my dog, but really, he rescued me. Or maybe, we rescued each other. The list of the ways he’s shaped my life is limitless, but here are eight lessons that only Wake dog could have taught me.
“We” is so much better than “I”.
Waker is an every day constant now and no matter what it is, it’s about us, not just me anymore. Every decision I make is fueled by what’s best for him and he’s taught me that when you have a teammate in life, you must be considerate, selfless and mindful.
Dog really is the best co-pilot.
Waker drastically changed my road trip game. We stop for lots of pee breaks and critter hunting in places I never would have explored alone. We have crossed state lines and time zones together, have witnessed the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I have seen so much more beauty because of him and for that I am fur-ever grateful.
It’s okay to put your head in a hole sometimes.
Waker knows the best things in life aren’t always right in front of us nor are they easy to get. Sometimes we need to dig deep to find what we’re really looking for, just like catching critters.
You can get by with a little help from your best friend.
Waker has seen my heart break, has watched me endure loss and has been there for significant life changes. I was on crutches for the better part of our first year together, but he didn’t let me sit around and think about it too much. He made me get up and get out to actually enjoy those days and suddenly, it wasn’t so bad.
It’s cool to be goofy.
Waker is my little weirdo. He doesn’t do what other dogs do – he doesn’t play fetch, he doesn’t woof down his food at once and he only wants to cuddle on his terms. He walks to the wag of his own tail. He builds nests for himself all day long, he plays with his toys like they’re his actual friends and he catches more house mice than any cat on the block. He’s made me realize that the best thing to be is yourself, and its even better when you’re a little goofy.
Sharing your bed is a good thing to do.
Waker likes to sleep like I do – in the middle of the bed with all the covers. We needed a few nights, but we finally agreed upon sleeping positions that accommodate both of us. That means he still gets the middle and I try not to fall off, but hey, it works for us and we’ve never slept better. He’s taught me that the greatest things, like sleep, are shared, and sharing is crucial for feeling fulfilled.
Take a look at the things around you.
Waker wonders about everything he sees, listens to every sound he hears and takes his time to pee on everything he sniffs. Pausing to take a look at the things around me has enhanced my quality of life. Life is full of simple treasures and beauty is everywhere. Waker gets full credit for teaching me how important understanding this is.
Fall more in love every day.
Waker makes me laugh, encourages me to remain patient and takes me on an unpredictable adventure every day. My heart is full of happiness because of him and each day I fall more and more in love with that boy.
Children’s naive understanding of the world allows them to live and learn freely, openly and, until they begin to compare themselves to others, without judgement. I am envious of kids abilities to say whatever they feel, ask any question, and do so without fear of what others will think.
As we learn about the world and grow into teenagers and adults, we develop ideas of what is right and what is wrong based on a variety of external and internal influences. The sequence of events that happen in life will affect based on your reaction to them.
This is the same in our relationships with people. In life, people will come and go. This could be someone you fall in love with, an acquaintance, or someone who walks past you on the street. How you react and interact with these people shapes how you move about in the world.
To put it simply and hopefully not to cliche, how you view others around you stems from how you feel about yourself. If we could all remember how we felt as children perhaps we could recall the genuine simplicity of interacting with others and improve the way we view each other.
I have come up with five reasons why you wouldn’t want to judge someone before you chat with them.
Imagine how much someone else knows. No one knows everything, everyone has interests, and everyone likes to share what they know with others. There is endless power in knowledge and unless you think you know it all, there is not a single person you will meet who cant teach you something. If you’re open to it, you will always be pleasantly surprised. “Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable, but no flowers grow.” -Vincent Van Gogh
There isn’t a person you wouldn’t love if you could read their story. People are fascinating, everyone starts from nothing and over time becomes a unique personality with a unique story. You don’t have to love listening to peoples life stories to appreciate how different we are and how far we’ve all come.
The power of positivity is simple. It feels better to feel good and feels worse to feel bad. Thinking negatively, especially in regards to people, will likely evoke negative feelings in and about yourself. Seeing the good in others and being understanding of people, will allow you to recognize and feel good about your own qualities. Positivity grows exponentially faster than negativity and is significantly easier to put your energy into.
What are you afraid of? While people may come from different backgrounds beliefs and understandings, it will only benefit you to try to understand the why behind their ways. If you are confident in your own values, there should be no fear of the unknown. “When the roots are deep, there is no reason to fear the wind” -African Proverb
You’d hate for it to happen to you. Considering how smart and capable you are, you have a lot to offer and it would be a shame for someone to overlook that based on a judgement. When others engage with you, be kind, be honest, and be yourself. It wont always work out and you wont always agree but if both parties can take away something different or new, then that’s a win.
Remember to love each other despite differences, ask questions if you don’t understand, and use your powers for good. At the end of the day it’s honestly so much easier.
Life is tough. Between work, binge watching Breaking Bad, and microwaving ramen noodles, don’t you have enough stress? Imagine adding in the fact that you drive a manual transmission car with no cup holders. How are you supposed to hold the wheel, text, drink your coffee, and shift gears with only two hands?
Ze Germans, even to this day,don’t care that your supersized coke has nowhere to call home in your vehicle. They do not build cars to coddle your beverage until you decide that the second half of those 42 oz’s is ready to be thrown in the garbage. What they do build, however, are cars that…you know what? They don’t build cars. Let me start over. They take a few cows, turn them into supple leather seats, and then once they have determined that the seats are microscopically perfect in every way, they add four wheels to the bottom and call it a car. Being that German is a by-word for precision, they of course include top of the line components and a powerful engine. Hiding all of this underneath is a body design that usually says something along the lines of: “Hey, I’m a restrained and highly refined piece of impeccable engineering. I’m driven by a lawyer that you can’t afford and every other Saturday I am pampered with a fresh coat of wax by a man in a white lab coat.”
The story of my German car is a little different. You see, until only recently, Porsche never quite figured out how to SELL cars. For the most part the company just built whatever they liked and the only reason customers made a purchase is because they were quite good looking and drove like no other automobile could. My Porsche is no exception. In 1970, Porsche believed that they needed to offer an entry level sports car at an affordable price. Seems like a good idea right? I can own a Porsche but I don’t have to sell any body parts to be able to afford it. Perfect! Well, in their infinite wisdom, Porsche decided to collaborate with Volkswagen on this project. (Dieselgate anyone?…Yeah. Smart move.)
Anyway the end result was essentially a mid-engined Porsche supercar. They deemed it model number 914. The 914 was perfectly engineered; low to the ground with a wide stance and perfect 50/50 weight distribution. The body was an edgy design that was way ahead of its time. It had two trunks, one in the front and one in the back, thanks to the engine being in the middle. What was Volkswagen’s contribution? A tiny four cylinder engine that made more noise than power. It was all show and no go. Despite being incredibly slow and underpowered, the car went on sale anyway. In 1976, Porsche cancelled the 914 program after a production run of just under 119,000 vehicles.
Fast forward to 2005. I was 14 years old, and a freshman in high school who knew everything. All freshman know everything right? That’s part of being a freshman…until a Senior puts you in your place. A few years earlier, my Father had purchased and restored a Porsche 912. It was, and to this day is, gorgeous. The color of the paint alone could make you pass out. It’s like having wine and chocolate with Scarlett Johansson, except you’ve just spilled your wine on her dress “accidentally.” Now your panic stricken, chocolate covered hands are smearing chocolaty perfection into the crimson rivers in an attempt to clean her ruined dress. The result is a deep burgundy bliss. Come back to reality with me for a second, my goal was to elicit the emotion felt from seeing such a perfect paint color…not bring you into whatever odd fantasies I may or may not have. What I fantasize about on my own time is between me and Scarlett Johansson.
After my Father had finished the restoration of his 912, it was time for him to find my first car. Keep in mind, I grew up in a decade where Paul Walker was driving cheap Honda Civic’s with neon lights painting the asphalt underneath…and when his movie franchise was still within an acceptable number of sequels. Being the testosterone filled yuppie that I was at the time, I naturally assumed that I was fast and furious and as such I required a car reminiscent of those in the film. My Father was smarter than this, realizing that not even a few months later our garage would be strewn with blown up turbos and every other failed experiment I would attempt to install on my Japanese street racer. In an attempt to change my teenage view on what cars are cool, he dragged me along to a Porsche car show in his perfect 912. We walked around, looking at the various vintage Porsches and discussing my upcoming future with life behind a steering wheel. We discussed what cars would be a good first car for me, with him hinting at the possibility of something vintage or at least something we can wrench on in the garage…something that didn’t require a laptop and a degree in advanced mechanical engineering to fix. Then, out of nowhere, there it was. My first ever sighting of a 914. I pointed at it, my mouth gaping open, trying to form words instead of the befuddled umm and err noises it was leaking. It was the kind of point that your parent would slap your hand out of the air and explain: “Don’t point. It’s rude to point.”
Throughout all of this my Mother was under the impression that my first car would be something safe and used, a certified pre-owned Toyota Camry perhaps. How wrong she was. Almost immediately after my first 914 sighting, my Father purchased one. This was back before the vintage Porsche market skyrocketed, when old ones could be had for next to nothing. It quietly sat in his office warehouse, collecting dust, waiting for the right moment to pounce on its 15 year old, acne fighting prey: Me. Looking back on this, I sometimes wonder if he was just working up the courage to tell my Mother what he had done. It was September of 2006. My sophomore year of high school had just begun. One night at the dinner table my Father explained he had purchased a white 1971 914 for me, and that we would restore it together and finish it by the time I had my license.
It had cost him $1,500, all of which I would have to pay back as a lesson that I needed to work to afford my own car. You’re thinking: “Wow! A Porsche for $1,500? What a steal!” No. You know when you buy a Coke from the vending machine and two roll out because the second one was so dented and crushed that the machine couldn’t hold it in place? This car was that second Coke. There was a rust hole the size of Chuck Norris’ fist right behind the driver door handle. The engine bay was a concoction of oil spray, dirt, grime, and of course more rust. The car would start, but honestly you were doing yourself, your neighbors, and the environment a favor by not starting it. I don’t know what was inside the transmission, probably just a pile of metal chunks and broken pieces, but every shift resulted in schreeching or grinding noises, further killing the already-on-its-last-leg transmission. This car was, and theres no other words for it, complete and utter crap. But it was my complete and utter crap.
Over the next few years (yes you guessed it, the car was nowhere near complete by the time I had my license) I learned a lot about all of the components required to propel a car in any given direction…because my car had none of them. They were strewn across the garage in various states of repair, awaiting that glorious day when they would be called back into action. The one thing the car did have going for it was a massive motor upgrade. My Father had dismantled the original motor and installed all new high performance internals. It now had a big bore kit, and the original fuel injection was tossed in favor of a dual-carburetor setup. Once the motor was installed, we invited a few friends to share and participate in that drumroll please moment when the motor would be started for the first time. My Pop turned the key and the Porsche fired right up, like it was brand new. It ran and sounded great…for all of about 30 seconds. It then decided to empty every drop of oil it had onto the driveway below it. For the sake of keeping this story from getting too long, and since I know my Father will read this, let’s just chalk it up to the fact that we are all human and sometimes we make mistakes…Love you Dad.
The almighty big bore motor made a second appearance after once again being dismantled and rebuilt. Only this time around it was discovered that the engine block was cracked and would need to be replaced. On to motor attempt number three we go. Third time is a charm right? Well, as it turns out, it was! I was finally able to drive the car. I drove the car in this state on and off for a few months as every night more work was being done to it. It had minimal interior pieces, no heater (California…didn’t really need one), old suspension, old tires, something that didn’t really deserve the term “brakes” but would eventually bring the car to a stop after some praying and holding the door handle in case you needed to bail. But you know what? It had that big motor! I learned a lot about how cars handled during these few months. Mine didn’t handle, that’s essentially how I learned. I would go screaming up Angeles Crest Highway in this thing, quick as can be on the straights. However, once you threw a bend into the equation, the car would buck and shake like a bed in a honeymoon suite. The 40 year old suspension just wasn’t up to the task, and would simply collapse at the thought of going around a corner. Nevertheless, I had proven to myself that, yes, I was fast and furious.
Of course, as we all know by now, my Father is much too smart to be letting his son take Utter Crap up and down one of the most dangerous roads in the country. The 914 was decommissioned once again. This time, all new performance suspension was to be installed, as well as an anti-roll bar in the front. A new exhaust system, new brakes, and tires also made their way into the equation. This car was loud and proud now. The suspension was so stiff that driving over a pothole was similar to jumping off the roof of your house in your superman costume, hoping you could fly. Here’s the problem though: You can fix the car, but you can’t fix your less than intelligent son. Yet again, my Father defeated even this problem. How? He took me out of school for a day and took me to the racetrack with the new and improved Porsche. Let me repeat myself. I’ll break it down in steps for you. 1. He took me out of school. 2. He took me to a RACETRACK. Dad:1 All my loser friends sitting in class that day:0.
We spent the day with the Porsche Club of America out at Willow Springs Raceway. As it turns out, I was quite skilled at the whole track driving thing. I repeatedly had the car stepping its tail out on corner entry and not once did I lose control or go off track. In fact, the only time I really made a mistake was about half way through the day. I had made quite a few laps around the track by
this point and was picking up speed with each and every one. Just before the straightaway is a very long second gear corner. It is imperative to be quick in this corner so you can maximize your speed on the straight. Now, I said second gear corner. Well, turns out it’s really more of a third gear corner. By the time I was exiting the corner, I had that car revving so far over the redline it was a miracle the motor didn’t explode and shoot bits of piston all over the track. For reference, the car has a redline of about 5,500 RPM or so, I had it somewhere around the 6,500 RPM mark. If this motor has 9 lives like cats do, that was easily one of them being pissed away into oblivion by your (slightly more intelligent now that he has done a trackday) son.
Let’s skip ahead a few years. It’s 2009 and I am off to college in Montana. The Porsche stayed behind in the luxurious warm weather of Southern California. By this point it was no longer my Utter Crap. It was Utter Perfection. The interior was clean and perfect, the paint shiny and new, and no the motor hadn’t blown up yet although it probably had lost a few more lives throughout my final years of high school. The 914 would sit for months at a time, occasionally being driven by my Father just to make sure it was still in tip top shape. I would call home and the first thing out of my mouth would be “How is my car?” My Pop did another trackday or two in it, but in the end it was placed in storage, doomed to become another “barn find” or God forbid on that depressing piece of television known as Storage Wars. I couldn’t take it anymore. It was eating at me. I had to be with my beloved car.
I decided it was time to bring the Porsche to Montana. I had another vehicle by now, a Toyota Tacoma to be exact, and the Porsche had garage space ready and waiting. It was the perfect setup. No college kids would ding my car as I would never take it to campus. A few of my friends decided to go to Vegas that year for Memorial Day weekend. I thought this was a perfect chance to grab the 914
from California and drive it up to Montana. I’d meet up with them in Vegas, spend the weekend there, and complete the rest of the drive after. I phoned my Father and he agreed it was a good plan. A few weeks later I received a call from him. He wanted in. First off, I had been out of the house for a few years now, leaving just my Father and two ladies: My sister and my Mother. Let’s just say some dude time in Vegas with a bunch of college kids seemed like a nice vacation. The 1,200 mile road trip in a vintage Porsche was just the icing on the cake.
Utter Perfection made it from start to finish without a single hiccup. It even doubled as a rum running vehicle on the stretch from Los Angeles to Vegas. Unlike Vegas, alcohol is cheap in California and can be bought in massive portions. Plus, the 914 has two trunks right? Don’t judge me, I was clearly putting my college education to use. To this day the 914 is with me in Montana. It has since done a few autocross races, seen some early winter fun in the snow, and even made an appearance at a few car shows.
This story isn’t really about the car though. It is about my Father. When i began writing it, that wasn’t my intention. After reading it however, I refuse to edit a single part of it. On that drive from Los Angeles to Montana, my Dad told me that these 914’s are slowly but surely creeping up in value. He suggested I enjoy it a little longer and then look at selling it and maybe getting something else that I can once again restore and watch go up in value. I’ll never forget this talk as long as I live. Here’s why: I told him that I don’t really care if the car is worth a dollar or a fortune, I won’t sell. Someday he will pass away, but you know what? That Porsche never will. As long as it is by my side I will always have my Father with me.
Your abs are never going to show if you have too much fat covering them. Start by reading my blog 5 ridiculously easy diet strategies for fat loss. Basically, abs are made in the kitchen. No amount of cardio, crunches, or creatine will give you abs if your diet is shit. Get your diet under control and you will finally see the cuts you’ve been wanting.
Change is hard. That’s true for everything you do. What is the hardest part about change? Sticking to the new change. Whether thats your new workout regimen or your diet consistency is key. You can’t expect to crash diet or hit the gym hard for 3 weeks and look like the next cover of Muscular Development. These people look the way they look because of YEARS in the gym and YEARS doing everything right in the kitchen.
So, with that said find a workout program that you can reasonable accomplish, and a diet strategy that makes sense of your lifestyle and stick to it. Don’t change for 6, 12, or even 18 weeks. After then, reevaluate. You don’t have to pick the hardest 7 day a week, macro controlled strategy. Even 3 days a week consistently with consistently good eating will show changes. The biggest thing here is just look yourself in the mirror and be realistic. Set SMART goals. Specific, measurable, attainable, realist, and time orientated.
3: You’re doing ‘abs’ too much
I have multiple gripes with this one. First off i’m not saying that training the core is bad by any means. It is in fact absolutely necessary. But not amount of extra core work will ever get you abs. In fact, most core work is relatively low intensity and will not burn too many extra calories. Another thing to think about is when you train the musculature with resistance the muscle will grow. Now, for men this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but no women wants a thick mid section even if its full of muscle.
Instead of trying to pump your abs up like Arnold everyday try thinking about having STRONG abs. A few good exercises are the turkish get up and the kettle bell wind mill. Try doing these in sets of 3-5 reps and get strong. Then spend the rest of your workout doing some HIIT conditioning. I provide some examples below.
4: Your conditioning sucks
Some people like to finish off their workouts with a little extra ab work or some time on the treadmill. I applaud the effort but, this isn’t getting you anywhere fast. Instead, try some HIIT conditioning. I recommend no more than 15 min total work time at the end of strength training days and no more than 30 min total work time on conditioning only days. You can follow this up with some low intensity work on a bike, treadmill, elliptical, etc for a little extra burn if you’d like. Again, the goal here is to get rid of fat so you can show off the muscle you’ve worked so hard for.
You’re going to want to watch the timer and follow this time pattern:
Conditioning Day work sample:
Try and EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute). You start your first set when the clock is at 0. You will end somewhere around 30-35 seconds (hopefully) then take the rest of that minute to rest. Then start on the next full min (1:00) perform the next set, so on and so forth for prescribed time.
25 min EMOM:
70 Yard trap bar farmers walk
20 KB Swing
20 Push ups (If push ups aren’t your thing, try substituting mountain climbers for sets of 60)
12 KB Goblet Squats
EMOM’s are a great way to get your heart rate up and get a little extra strength work in at the same time. This will have you reaping the benefits of your workout for a lot longer than the 25 min work time.
If you’re unfamiliar with any of the movements, Youtube is your friend.
5: You’re not lifting heavy enough, often enough.
No better way to get the fat burning fire started and keep it going all day than with some heavy compounds. Exercises like the squat, bench press, deadlift, and standing barbell overhead press tax the system like no other. Not only do you burn calories while doing theses exercises but the load is so sufficient on your system that it will take your body days to recover. This means the majority of calories in are put towards recovering the body. Not many unused calories to sit around and sore up as fat.
Lifting heavy will allow you to retain muscle mass while you’re getting cut up. More muscle = a higher metabolic rate. What does this mean? You burn more calories while essentially doing nothing. When you lift heavy you are telling your body, I NEED this muscle and in return your body will retain it. Remember, you need muscle in order to see muscle. Nothing will piss a guy off quicker than having worked his ass off for 6 months to get those golden abs and realize he has no delts, traps, biceps, or quads.
If you can manage 3 strength days/week try this for your heavy stuff:
Monday: Squat 6×4
Wednesday: Bench Press: 5×5
Friday: Deadlift 6×3, OHP 5×5
Follow these exercises up with some assistance work around the same muscle groups.