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In a normal year, as the days start getting shorter and colder, the start of winter can be a tough time. Many of us deal with seasonal affective disorder, more commonly known as seasonal depression, which can disrupt our work and personal lives. And, in 2020, we are also dealing with COVID-19, isolation, political polarization, and other enormous pressures.

Thus, it’s more important than ever to take care of ourselves and do our best to maintain some sense of normalcy in our lives, even with everything going on. Here are a few things you can do to stay relaxed and productive this season: 

Make a Schedule

When things start getting overwhelming, one of the best ways to stay in control is to plan out your time and tasks. Personally, I like using Google Calendar. I’ll first schedule everything I have to do each week—all my classes, meetings, appointments, etc. I can then fill in the remaining hours with dedicated blocks of time to work on assignments, study, or relax.

Making a schedule sounds simple, but when you have a lot on your plate, it can really help you stay organized and feel in control.

Celebrate Small Successes

It can be easy to beat yourself up when you feel that you aren’t being as productive as you “should be.” But it’s important to remember that we are not in normal times, so it’s okay if we’re not able to do as much as we normally could. Personally, I’ve found that it’s helpful to focus on all the small successes I have every day—whether that be finishing an assignment, going for a run, or making myself a delicious lunch. While these things may seem small and insignificant, celebrating them can bring you the motivation and happiness to keep meeting your goals each day.

Plan Time to Relax and Have Fun

One thing that’s really been helpful to me recently is planning out specific times to relax and have fun. This could be small things like making myself a cup of coffee after working for thirty minutes, or bigger things like watching a few episodes of a TV show each Friday night. I like to write down or save things I want to do, read, or watch, and then use those as rewards for finishing assignments or work.

Get Festive

Although winter can be a source of stress and even sadness for many of us, it also has its good parts. This year, I’m going to try to be extra festive to give me a source of joy and distraction from everything going on in the world. If you want, I’d encourage you to do this as well! You could make yourself some hot chocolate, put up holiday lights or decorations in your room, watch Christmas movies, or just snuggle up with a good book by the fire. You could even plan socially distanced or virtual festive get-togethers with a few of your close friends.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

It’s been a tough year, and if you’re struggling, you should know that you aren’t alone. Reach out to those you’re closest to —whether that be your friends, parents, or siblings—for support with whatever you’re going through or just to talk. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to your school’s counseling or health offices if you need more significant help. 

It’s important to remember that whatever emotions or worries you are dealing with right now are valid. Especially in college, we can feel pressure to always be productive and busy—but it’s okay if you need to take some time for yourself this winter, whether that be to relax, destress, or have some fun. And celebrate the good things in your life —even if they seem small—because you deserve it.

Kristin Merrilees

Columbia Barnard '24

Hey! My name is Kristin and I'm a current sophomore at Barnard College. I like to write about culture, tech, and anything cool I find on the internet! I also love oat milk, Twitter, and my pitbull mix, Kalvin.
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