Seasonal Struggles

Welcome back, everyone! The holiday season is upon us, and while this can be a wonderful time for reconnections and smiles, it can also be a time for a dip in our mental health. Even if you are incredibly excited to return home and see your family and friends, this time is a major adjustment. 

Unfortunately, when you go away to college, coming back home is hard. How hard is very much dependent on your personal living situations at home, but the fact remains that this period of time is, frankly, weird. This is especially true if you are a freshman and Thanksgiving will be the first time you are going home since starting college. At school, we are all much more independent. For the most part, we make our own rules and live by our own standards for months at a time. Being thrown back into your parents’ or caregivers’ system can be disorienting. It’s easy to bump heads; you aren’t used to being told what to do this often. However, remembering that you will only be home for a short amount of time helps to get through the rough patches. Try to push past those little irritations and enjoy spending those moments with your family if you can. 

Beyond the typical adjustment of coming back to a set of house rules, a lot of people don’t have a great relationship with their family. If you’re like me, you may not be looking forward to going home at all. If you have the means— and the will power — to stay at school over break, do it! It’s okay to define your boundaries, even with your family. If going home will not make you happy and you are able to stay, do what is right for you. Your mental health is important and sometimes you have to fight for it a little harder. 

When it comes to the actual holidays themselves, we all know it can be a little tense in regard to politics. Maybe there are other hot-button topics that your family tip-toes around, but in today’s climate, politics is one that most of us share a dread for. It’s important to remember to pick your battles. You want to stand up for what you believe in, and that’s amazing, but don’t engage with the little stuff. Shield yourself from the petty arguments and keep your high ground, even if it’s in your head. But if you’re anything like me, that is probably the hardest thing you can imagine. Biting your tongue can be incredibly frustrating when people are attacking your core beliefs. So to those of you who deal with this, I suggest researching as much as possible before you go home to arm yourself. If a discussion must come, make sure you’re the one with the facts and figures. 

The holiday season can be a joy and a terror all at once. Remember to enjoy the moments when you can, prioritize your mental health, pick your battles, and arm yourself with knowledge. I wish you all luck in your family battles over the coming weeks. See everyone next week! 

Letting in the Light

Welcome back, everyone! As the days get a little shorter and the nights grow a little colder, it can be really hard to see the warmth in our lives. This can be a dark time for a lot of people, literally and emotionally. Seasonal affective disorder is extremely common and affects a wide range of different people. Luckily, there are some great ways to combat this. 

For those of us that fall prey to seasonal depression—and for those of us that experience a worsening in our already subpar mental health during this time of year—one of the most important tools at our disposal is communication. This is common (extremely common), and sitting down and being honest with someone you are close with is one of the best ways to feel better. You don’t have to be looking for a solution to need to talk something out. Sometimes, you just need to expel all of the feelings you’ve been bottling up, and having someone be there, just to listen and maybe relate, can help you feel heard and valued when you’re struggling. 

Another great way to pull yourself out of a seasonal slump is through light. This seems relatively simple, but seasonal affective disorder is widely attributed to the decrease in sunlight and warmth during the fall and winter seasons. Light therapy is an innovative way to mimic the natural light you might be craving. Something many of us take for granted can actually alter our brain chemistry.

However, you might not need to go to the extent of a fancy lightbox for help this winter. It’s so easy to want to curl up in a dark room and forget the world when you’re in this headspace, but instead, push open your curtains. Rather than turning on a light to see your homework, open the blinds to reveal some natural light. I also like to create my light by lighting candles in the evenings. They have a softer, more natural glow that can warm up a room and a mood. 

So, whether the light you need this winter is a candle, some extra sun, or a really great listener, remember that you’re not alone in this battle. Reach out to open those curtains and to check on a friend that might be in the same situation as you. Try to stay warm and positive as the semester progresses. See everyone next week!

Mid-Semester Mental Health

Whether it’s midterms, essays, mountains of homework, or just general stress, this time of year is one of the worst for college students’ mental health. While we all try our best to take care of ourselves, it’s hard to find a balance between being successful and being content. We all know we should make our mental health a priority, especially this time of year, but that can be a tall order for us all.

There are those days that everyone shuts down. Maybe you have a big exam looming, or maybe you’re just having a really hard time getting out of bed. The most important thing to remember is that it’s perfectly okay to have those days. It happens to the best of us, and if you don’t allow yourself little breaks, you’re holding yourself to an impossible standard. Understanding your limits is crucial to surviving this period of time as a college student. You have to let yourself have a mental health day now and then because, like it or not, we’re all human.

That being said, there are little tips and tricks that I use to perk up my sour moods when I need it. One of my favorite ways to end a particularly stressful day is with a long shower. I’ll put on some of my favorite music—making playlists for this is also a fun, easy way to distract your mind from whatever you are preoccupied with—and let the water and songs wash over me. Then I’ll go into my room with my favorite candle lit and reflect on the day. This is a calming experience and, depending on your music choice, it can be pretty fun!

Another easy way to relax your mind during these stress-filled weeks is to spend some time outside. I know we’ve all heard this, but before you roll your eyes, hear me out. This time of year has some of the best sit-on-your-porch weather. If you’re worried that taking time for your mental health will somehow set you back in your studies, take your work outside! There really is something to be said for feeling the breeze through your hair and smelling that beautiful fall air. I know I am not an outdoorsy person, but I still need that fresh air to remind myself that there is a world outside of my eight-page paper sometimes.

I hope this helps anyone feeling a little stressed with this time in the semester. Remember that you deserve to take time for yourself and that it’s okay to need breaks! See everyone next week!