At some point in your life, you may experience intense fatigue or mood swings, and your motivation levels may drop. Your workload, concerns about exams, and balancing study and personal life can all lead to this state. Sometimes we also hear the term “student burnout,” which is not well known, but is nonetheless very real. It can happen to anyone, because sometimes it just feels like it’s too much! This condition is generally temporary, lasting from a few days to about two weeks, and does not require medical treatment.  It’s not like depression, but you still need to be cautious about it.   


The signs and symptoms of low mood or intense fatigue are similar to those of depression, but they are less intense, and they normally diminish over time. If, however, you experience one or more of the signs below for more than two weeks and you don’t see any improvement, don’t hesitate to seek professional help, as you may be suffering from depression. It needs to be diagnosed and treated. 

  • Fatigue 
  • Lack of energy or restlessness 
  • Sleep problems: sleeping too much or too little 
  • Change in appetite: increase or decrease 
  • Sexual changes: decrease or loss of interest 
  • Discomfort: headaches, back or stomach pain 
  • Great sadness (e.g., crying often) 
  • Loss of interest in professional, social, and family activities 
  • Feelings of guilt or failure 
  • Decreased self-esteem 
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions 
  • Suicidal thoughts 


In northern countries like ours, reduced light levels in winter can lead to signs of depression. This happens to around 20% of the Canadian population. For a further 2-3%, these symptoms are more pronounced, and are referred to as seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder.  

Interestingly, whether we’re talking about the blues or seasonal depression, scientific studies have shown that, under certain conditions, daily use of a light therapy lamp is an effective treatment for regaining energy, so why not give it a try? 


First, take a moment to clarify the need or reason behind your feeling down. 

  • What do you feel: overload, boredom, sadness?  
  • Is it linked to a specific event, accumulation, or specific context?  
  • Do you need motivation, more vitality, to slow down, to rest, to find meaning? 

Being aware of this will help you identify relevant strategies to brighten up gloomy days and lighten your daily routine. Here are a few strategies: 

  • Dealing with the lack of light: there’s nothing like a walk outside to air out the brain and compensate for the lack of sunlight. If possible, set up your worktable near a window to take advantage of the natural light. 
  • Get active: the less you move, the more you forget how good it feels to move! Don’t feel that you have to run a marathon, just put on your shoes, skates, skis or snowshoes and get outside to stretch your arms and legs.    
  • Artistic activity: artistic creation is an excellent way of expressing your feelings. It’s a way of expressing things that aren’t working and leaving room for other emotions. Sing, paint, draw, play a musical instrument, whatever you enjoy!  
  • Transform your day: get out of your usual routine for a day or take a break from the screen to do something new. This will break the boredom and stimulate your brain in a new way: novelty has a way of giving you the boost you need to get through a difficult period.  
  • Be easy on yourself: you can allow yourself to experience a certain level of depression. It’s impossible to be constantly happy, fulfilled, and energetic. Feeling depressed from time to time is normal and healthy.  

You can also watch these two testimonials in which Andres and Elisabeth talk openly about their experiences with mental health during their studies.

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Centre d’étude sur le stress humain. (2019)  Burnout vs Dépression

Gouvernement du Québec – Scientifique en chef. La luminothérapie : efficace pour la dépression hivernale ?

Gouvernement du Québec. (2023) Dépression

Université du Québec à Montréal. Déjouez la déprime

Université Laval. (2016) L’épuisement étudiant.


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Illustration : Mario Fontaine

Contribution to the article : Isabelle Queval, psychologist

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