Fall has always been my favorite season. It brings a new school year, field hockey season, town fairs, football games, carving pumpkins, homecoming, foliage, candied apples, and Halloween. Despite this, every year on September 1st, my heart sinks a little in my chest. The beauty of autumn cannot mask the impending winter. After the excitement fizzles, I find myself struggling more and more to wake up everyday. On dark, chilly mornings, I never want to leave the comfort of my own sheets. I cannot study outside on the Hoval anymore, but at the same time, I cannot bring myself to sit in the Dinand basement precisely because it reminds me of our last dreadful winter. My tan fades, and the Cape Cod bracelet on my wrist remains the last and only connection to my summer friends, home, and job. The sun rises later and sets earlier, so darkness begins to feel all too familiar. Trapped inside all day and night, I search and search for motivation but to no avail. Suddenly, my mood only matches the vibes of folklore and evermore by Taylor Swift (Forget about my “Songs to Blast on Night Drives With the Windows Down” playlist). The lack of Vitamin D has detrimental effects on us all.
what is seasonal depression?
According to NHS UK, symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (or SAD) include, “a persistent low mood, a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities, irritability, feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness, feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day, sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning, and craving carbohydrates and gaining weight.”
How Can We, as College Students, Prioritize Self-Care and Our Mental Health During the Winter Months?
- Exercise: Holy Cross has a beautiful new recreation and wellness center, the Jo. You do not need experience in weight lifting or crossfit to exercise. Whether walking laps around the track, hitting a volleyball back and forth, or stretching in the multipurpose room, physical activity releases endorphins that calm the mind and body. Whenever I feel particularly anxious, breaking a sweat serves as my most beneficial coping strategy.
- Find a Winter Hobby: Last winter, I decided to break out my old skis. I purchased a “College Pass” and spent nearly three nights a week at Wachusett Mountain (about a 30 minute drive from campus), zooming down the slopes. Because of skiing, I found myself happy to see snow falling. I had an excuse to leave my house. Depending on my needs, skiing gave me both space to think and be alone and an opportunity to spend time with friends and family.
- Spend Time With Others: I cannot emphasize this one enough. I can guarantee that no one finds the winter months easy, nevermind enjoyable. The best choice we can make is to lean on one another. If you have completed all of your work at 9 PM on a Tuesday night, go hang out in your friend’s room for a little while before bed. Netflix will not take offense, I promise. Rant. Catch up. Cry a little (If it will make you feel better). As a matter of fact, go to your friend’s room even if you have not completed all of your work. If you desperately need a break and physically cannot sit in front of your computer for one more minute, do what you have to do. Shut the laptop screen. Leave the library. Call it a night. A few weeks ago, I turned to my cousin for help making a decision. At sixteen years old, she said to me, “Riley, I hope you know that nothing in this world is worth it if it’s going to negatively impact your mental health.” Ever since, this statement has rang in the back of my head. Self-care is genuinely the most important aspect of student life. Your inner emotions and thoughts dictate your actions. We cannot expect ourselves to perform well in class if we are fighting our own mental battles.
Do not hesitate to contact Holy Cross’ Counseling Center at 508-793-3363 for support during these difficult months.