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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Augustana chapter.

You wake up in the dark, get ready in the dark. 

You walk to class under grey skies,

too cold for just your hoodie, and too warm to add your coat. 

You purchase an unappealing lunch as the sky darkens,

watercolor sunset trapped behind a veil of clouds. 

You walk into choir when it is day, 

leave when it is night,

but really, it is four-thirty p.m.,

you haven’t had dinner,

and you’re ready for bed.

…You still have homework to do.

How can you possibly make these grey days bearable?

November is full of grey days, and it’s followed by colder, darker months. As someone who has pretty severe seasonal affective disorder—often referred to as seasonal/winter depression—it can be damn near impossible to even make it through the winter, much less thrive in it. But unfortunately, humans cannot hibernate, so I and many others still have to pretend to be functional members of society from November through March. I like to think this has given me a pretty good skill set for tough-love-style self-care when you can barely get yourself out of bed.

So what can we do?

First of all, try not to give in to the desire to nap. At least, not on school days or when you have a lot of responsibilities. The lack of sunlight does naturally raise one’s melatonin levels, so you’re gonna be really, really tired. However, the last thing you want to do is create a habit of napping the moment you get out of class. You have limited daylight as it is, and it’s gonna be way harder to do anything once you awaken from your nap and it’s dark and you’re hungry and you really just want to go back to sleep. Besides, even with the naps, you’re still going to be unrealistically tired—again, your melatonin levels are raised. Get as much done as you can, and absolutely take breaks and rest, but do not nap often!

Also, any time the sun is out, go outside. Do your homework in the quad. Walk the slough. Get out there, and get as much vitamin D as you can. Sunlight is limited, and when the sun is up, it’s usually cloudy. However, there are still times when the limited daytime is going to be bright and sunny, and this is when you need to get outside. Photosynthesize like a plant. It helps so much.

Keep a light on as much as possible. In my experience, darkness makes the feeling of sadness and emptiness much, much worse. Plus, it makes you even more tired. I can’t really use my overhead light much, as it gives me migraines, so I had to adapt. I hung Christmas lights in my dorm, and I have multiple lamps and a “happy light” going all the time. Make your space fun and bright.

Make yourself a sleep schedule and do your best to stick to it. For example, when I have an 8:30 class the next day, I try to be in bed by 10:30 at the latest. On days when I have a 10:30 class, I’m in bed by midnight at the latest. Staying up any later than that not only makes my mental state spiral, but also means I can’t get enough sleep and the tired misery is made worse. We’re not aiming for perfection here, of course—even I struggle to be asleep when I need to be—but we are aiming for effort. Prioritize sleep as much as you can, because your body needs it. 

Pick a time and place to do your homework, and stick to it. Have others hold you accountable for this. If I say I’ll do something later, or that I’ll do it from my desk, I guarantee it will not get done. I have absolutely no motivation to do anything when I’m in my room or when I don’t have a specific time to do it. My solution is to do my homework in my dorm’s lounge, or in the library (at 7 p.m. for the lounge, and 3 p.m. for the library). When I was in high school and actually had a car, I’d go to a coffee shop and do my work. And—this part is most important—I have my mom remind me to actually do it, or I have a friend meet me there. It sucks, but falling behind and failing assignments sucks even more.

Clean your room once a week. That’s not to say you have to deep clean it, but once a week, take fifteen minutes to pick up your trash and take it out, wash your dishes, and organize your desk. Maybe sweep the floor if things get bad. Be proactive, so that it doesn’t become an endless depression pit that’s impossible to clean. Set a reminder on your phone. Light a candle, play some music, and make it enjoyable. Again, we’re not aiming for perfection, you’re allowed to skip this a few times, but try your best.

Pick something that makes you happy and dedicate time to it. Skincare. Art. Writing. Gaming. If something brings you joy, you need to be doing it at least a little. I know I’ve talked a lot about how to make yourself more productive, but my main priority is making sure you prioritize yourself. Unfortunately, the society in which we live says that we need to be productive, and makes our lives a hell of a lot harder when we aren’t, but that doesn’t mean you need to turn yourself into a work machine when you’re already miserable. It’s so hard to find happiness in these months, and you need to take the opportunity to give yourself some joy where you can find it.

Finally, use any resources you have, take mental health days, and prioritize self care. If your college offers free counseling, use it. If your professor will drop your lowest few grades, feel free to drop an assignment that’s giving you too much stress. Take a day off and reset. Do a face mask, light a candle, apply your favorite lotion, wear your comfiest clothes, and put on a show or video that relaxes you. Give yourself some freedom to just relax. Winter sucks, but you will make it through, I promise.

Hello! My name is Mak, and I go by they/them pronouns. I'm a part of the Augustana College class of 2027, and I'm a History/Sociology-Anthropology double major (hopefully adding either a French or WGSS minor to that). I'm your classic insufferable angry queer feminist poet with too many opinions and too much time on her hands. Give me any topic and I'll write up a little rant about it, no problem, though I occasionally struggle with speaking out loud. I absolutely love to write and draw and sing, and I know way too much information about the band Fall Out Boy. I don't necessarily believe in astrology, but I'll admit it's a hobby of mine (I'm a Leo sun, Cancer moon, and Capricorn rising). My main goal is to work towards a better, safer future, both on campus and out in the world, for *all* women and feminine-aligned individuals, as well as to examine, understand, and deconstruct the sociology of gender and patriarchy in our society today. I'm always open to discussion and constructive criticism of any and everything I write on here — no one is perfect, myself included. Just shoot me a message or find me on campus. Love and support to all!