Its 20 degrees colder than it ever is at home. I had no idea, but it wasn’t the cold Swedish weather that I had to fear. It was the darkness that sparked my winter depression, writes columnist Anindyaningrum Chrisant Rystiasih.
I like to try to tell the time based on natural light and the sky. In Indonesia I am an expert. Believe it or not, sometimes I can get the time right exactly to the minute. Well, it happens.
Here in Lund, I still kept this habit. I’m sure we’ve all looked outside sometime in the afternoon and notice streetlights are lit and the sky is dark, it must be late already. My brain proceeds to thinking about what to cook for dinner, and prepare for lazing in my bed afterwards. Only then I look at my watch and find out it is still 4pm.
It is too late. My body had already shifted into late night mode, and my brain had decided to shut down for the day. Feeling tired, I would go to bed early. This is not ideal when you are a student with a full schedule and lots of homework to complete.
Waking up the next morning, I still felt like I hadn’t had enough sleep, I was lethargic. Yet, school must go on. I attended lectures, did group work but often felt very sleepy and unproductive. I also started to eat more, always craving for something. After some days, I was always in a bad mood, sad, and unmotivated.
In an effort to explain how I felt my boyfriend, I complained about the darkness and how low energy I had been feeling. My boyfriend didn’t believe me. He asked incredulously, “You are depressed because it is dark?” I was exasperated. In an attempt to get backup prove my point, I typed into Google “winter depression”.
All of a sudden all my symptoms appeared on the screen. As I read through, I suddenly came to the understanding that what I was feeling was normal. This is what happens when the body is adapting.
Soon after, I had the change to talk to one of my coordinators at school. He gave me great advice. There is a whole science behind it, but bottom line is that the body has a circadian system, a body clock that is regulated by regular exposure to light. If I could mimic the light exposure I would normally get, it could help set my body clock straight. He suggested getting more lights, to really light up my room in the afternoons. There were also different types of lights that were more similar to sunlight that could help ‘trick’ my body.
In short I got a new lamp. I also leave my blinds open when I sleep so that I get all the sunlight in the morning. Now I’m wake up fresher and feel much better. Come and visit me any afternoon, basking in my room of glowing light.