In places farther from the equator, being sad is not an uncommon occurrence… literally. SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder can be a normal experience during the change in seasons. It is a type of depression that is triggered by the change in seasons, most notably during the transition from fall to winter. Thanks to the Lake Michigan Effect, being in Chicago during the winter can be brutal.
Currently, Chicago is experiencing it’s coldest period of the year, thanks to the polar vortex. The polar vortex is when cold air moving in the Arctic Circle tends to be disrupted, with the force of the air weakening, which gradually drops, and moves southward, causing the excruciatingly cold temperatures we are currently seeing. With the diverse student body from multiple parts of the country and world, I reached out to students to better understand their experiences with the cold temperatures and how they are adjusting during this time.
Born and raised in Palmdale, California, sophomore Brent Claypool says that the difference between his hometown Palmdale and Evanston is massive. One big thing he notes is the difference in temperatures, and how it impacts his day-to-day life.
“Here in Illinois I have to kind of plan my entire day around when I have to go out to the store and go outside, depending on bus schedules, or when wind chill will be the least horrific,” he says.
The cloudiness and weather he thinks have impacted how he interacts with the campus, his social life, and his academics. He considers himself as someone who enjoys nature and greenery, and thanks to the record-low temperatures, he is having a hard time finding ways to interact with the landscape. Because of the change in temperature, he says he is less likely to go to certain events or hang out with friends that live on the opposite side of campus. His academics have been influenced because Claypool opts to not choose any classes on the south side of campus, despite having a strong interest or motivation to take certain classes that.
First-year Communications Studies major Sophia Simon hails from Lansing, Michigan, and says that the weather can be really influential on mood.
“I feel okay, coming from a similar environment, I know how to adjust when the seasons change, but it is, it’s hard to get to class and hard to feel motivated to do stuff,” she says.
Simon says that she feels used to cold weather considering the climate in Michigan is fairly similar. But being in Evanston, which is colder and windier thanks to the Lake Michigan Effect, she feels that she is more immune to the weather. Similarly to Brent Claypool, she does feel that the weather has impacted how she interacts with her friends, whether she leaves her dorm much or at all, and even her mood.
“When it’s really dark and it’s cloudy and it’s snowing, I do notice that I feel demotivated, I feel sleepy. Sometimes, I’m not always in the best mood, so I really do try to appreciate the sun when it’s out.”
Sophia Simon does think that she has experienced SAD before in high school, attributing part of this experience to Michigan being the cloudiest state in the country, but currently, feels fine.
William Dreux is a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering from the south side of Chicago. He notes that the temperature in Chicago and Evanston is ultimately the same, however, the increased wind chill due to being closer to the lake is very different from his hometown. Dreux also points out that he spends a lot more time outside in Evanston, so the impact of the temperature is more notable. Being accustomed to the weather, he does not think that he has experienced SAD, but acknowledges that he has felt influenced by the weather as it pertains to his social life and class performance, noting that he becomes more intentional with his time.
“When the weather isn’t that great outside, I tend to do better in my classes, ‘cause I have nothing else to do. But my social life does go down, ‘cause I can’t go out or hang out with people. I’m just forced to stay inside.”