Moods Swing with the Seasons
by Madeline Barnes on Friday, May 22nd, 2015
Boston received a total of 110.3 inches of snow this past winter. Starting during exam week, the record-breaking snowfall seemed never-ending, leaving behind snowbanks much larger than those of a typical Boston winter. Attending a prep school in New England presents elements of unpredictability surrounding grades, college, and social dynamics; however, living in this region, we experience, at the very least, one predictable consistency: extreme weather. This past winter’s snowfall, however, seemed to affect more than just morning traffic and exam schedules. According to Medical News Today, Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is “a type of depression that occurs in countries that are far away from the equator during the winter months.” Enduring seemingly endless winters, residents of New England are much more likely to experience this “winter depression,” which presents symptoms such as anxiety, indecisiveness, low moods, and irritability. The obvious question then remains: how prevalent is SAD at Milton?
As Milton students, we work diligently to maintain efficient study habits and stay organized during periods of extensive homework assignments and rigorous classes. Furthermore, we try to balance academics with something that resembles a social life. I believe that the prevalence of S.A.D and its effects on mood and behavior can impact our normal habits and behaviors at Milton and, as a result, can negatively affect our academic performances.
During the multiple exam week snow days, I noticed that, not only did the possibility of severe snow create uncertainty about the exam schedule, but the delay of exams by three or four days caused a noticeable increase in anxiety among students. While the extra study days proved helpful for some students, for others, the extra days resulted in a drop in enthusiasm and pre-exam adrenaline.
Furthermore, I personally believe that the subtle changes in an individual’s behavior associated with SAD may be more difficult to notice, and their negative impact on academic performance may be mistakenly attributed to other factors such as homework load or athletic schedules. Regardless, behavior like the pessimism and depression that results from last minute schedule changes, cancellation of student activities, or limited opportunities for socializing is characteristic of SAD. This negative impact on mood cannot possibly benefit academic outcome.
The noticeable behavioral changes that occur when the weather warms and the snow melts also support the prevalance of SAD on campus. Almost immediately, a far more positive mood sweeps through the campus. Notwithstanding the added pressures of SATs, AP exams, and college applications, the spring season at Milton inevitably brings more time outside. Students may be on the quad with friends, having class outside, or participating in a spring sports out of the gym. This time outside, coupled with a far more predictable academic, athletic, and social schedule, can drastically improve one’s mood and change one’s outlook on all aspects of Milton life.
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