The winter months are full of stress for students. It’s finals season, big projects are due, and we have to think about the reality of winter break as it creeps toward us. The sun begins setting earlier and earlier, and the air becomes frigid and dry. It’s the perfect storm for mental health decline.
Some students suffer from what is commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (or as it is aptly acronymed, SAD), but any student can experience the winter blues regardless of a diagnosis. The combination of internal and external stressors can make you feel down. The good news is that there are ways to combat and defeat these dark feelings this winter. As a student who takes six classes and works a few jobs, I know a thing or two about dealing with depression during the winter. There are quite a few things that work for me personally that I would like to share in hopes of helping other students get through this tumultuous time.
- Stay warm, drink warm, shower warm. You would not believe the effect that warmth has on our mental status until you experience it. I start out every morning with a warm shower (thank you, Oak Summit shower pressure!) and clothes that I warm in the dryer before getting dressed. Check the weather before picking your outfits. Dress in layers so you don’t overheat in buildings, and wear proper socks and shoes to keep your feet warm. I like to finish off the day with a warm meal and hot drink. Chilis, soups, and casseroles are amazing this time of year to keep you satiated and warm. My favorite drinks right now are hot chocolate and Twinings Earl Grey tea with honey (also great for a dry/sore throat). Staying warm helps combat that freezing cold that can really affect your mental well being and it’s easy to do with little time.
- Watch your sleep. Listen, I know it’s hard to get the appropriate amount of sleep as a college student. You have studying to do, parties to attend, and early classes. But your body and mind need sufficient sleep to function properly. Try to get on a schedule that works for you, and never underestimate the power of a 90-minute nap (which professionals say is the best for the sleep-deprived). Prepare your body for a good night’s sleep, because sleep is only good if it’s restful. I suggest using scents like chamomile or lavender when preparing for bed (Bath & Body Works has a wonderful sleep line; I suggest the pillow spray). I also recommend a heated blanket, which is one of the coziest things I own. (Practice safety with heated blankets, though!)
- Invest in a light therapy lamp. For less than $20, you can get a lamp that simulates the sun during the summer. You can set timers on it that mimics the setting and rising of the sun during non-winter seasons. This helps with the amount of daylight you receive, which, like it or not, deeply affects your mental state.
- In the same vein, invest in Vitamin D supplements. CVS, Walgreens, and even Target all carry Vitamin D supplements. With less and less sun, our bodies are losing Vitamin D. Almost everyone in the world has a Vitamin D deficiency, which is only worsened by the lack of sunshine. Taking these supplements daily can have an incredible effect on your mood if consistent.
- Spend time with loved ones. Animal, human, whatever – you need time with those you love. This is always a mood booster, no matter the time of year, but sometimes with the hustle and bustle of life, we can forget this meaningful time. Going out of your way to schedule intentional time with your friends and family will help wash away those blues. I know that I love spending time with my friends around this time, doing stuff like dinner together and even a Friendsgiving. A cuddle with my emotional support animal can cure any cold, as well.
I hope some of these tips help to make this time of year just a little bit more bearable. Remember, Student Health Services always has resources for students in need and Counseling Services are available to all students. Getting sick can only make things feel worse, so make sure that you are up to date on flu shots and use Arcadia’s TimelyCare in case of any illness. There are many things that you can do to make this time easier and everyone deserves to feel their best.
Good luck, Knights!