UO students battle the dreary days with vitamins, lamps and wellness workshops
Alexandra Mickle, a University of Oregon sophomore from California, lives three blocks from the beach. “It’s literally 72 degrees every day, and if the sun’s not out, then it’s still bright, even if it’s cloudy. It rains maybe three days a year.”
Every fall term since 2014, over 1,000 incoming UO freshman have come from California, and that number has increased every year. For many of them, Mickle’s home sounds like a description of their home, too.
For Mickle, who said she already suffers from depression, Eugene’s winter weather chipped away at her mental health even more. The change in temperature from a sunny 72 degrees to a rainy 43 was a shock for her. But her depression has led her to seek solutions like vitamin D lamps and spending time with dogs.
Mickle enjoys visiting the dogs at the Duck Nest, a student resource center for mental health. The office is located in the basement of the EMU.
“Dogs increase my mood a lot, like a ridiculous amount,” she said.
Mickle said another important thing she does to prevent her from losing control of her mental health is staying busy, especially doing things outdoors like going on walks.
“If I don’t have things to do, then I sit and wallow in my pity and thoughts,” said Mickle.
The counseling center offers a wellness workshop series through the Duck Nest. The first workshop is Monday, Jan. 8 at 2 p.m., specializing on homesickness.
Counseling Center Education and Prevention Outreach Coordinator, Suzie Stadelman, said winter term is tailored to some of the topics they hear more often in the colder, darker months, which include depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD. There are also more workshops offered on topics applicable to year-round struggles.
“Just to reach out to others is one of the first, more proactive things to do,” said Mariko Lin, a senior staff psychologist with the Counseling Center. “Most likely other people are struggling with the same thing.”
Vitamins are also an essential component of Mickle’s winter term routine, especially vitamin D.
Mickle uses a vitamin D lamp for an hour while doing her makeup and when she does her homework in the evenings. Vitamin D lamps help trigger the skin to produce more vitamin D using high-intensity ultraviolet B rays, according to Berkeley Wellness. The Duck Nest offers vitamin lamps for students’ use.
Fellow sophomore Nalani Ho-Watkins also said the vitamins help her a lot during winter, despite having lived in Eugene for seven years.
“Since there’s so little sunlight, I take vitamin D and a multivitamin,” said Ho-Watkins. “Especially in the winter, I’m really careful to take it every day.”
Ho-Watkins has an emotional support dog named Hapa, and she said the companionship he provides is a big part of her mental health.
According to Lin, companionship is a big part of staying healthy.
“It’s partly just connecting with others that are similar, like their peers that are going through the same thing so they don’t feel like they’re alone,” said Lin. “Attending something like [the wellness workshops] also provides accountability versus denying what’s happening or ignoring what’s happening.”
While each student has his or her own coping strategies, Lin said keeping a routine and staying busy are some of the most important things.
“It’s really going back to whatever they enjoy in their lives, and if they can identify what those are, they need to get back to that,” Lin said. “When they really had joy in their lives, they feel connected or have a community, so then they’re going to socialize more with their friends or find that one person they trust.”
Follow Becca Robbins on Twitter: @brobbinsuo