How to Beat the College Winter Blues

Getting geared up for your spring semester in college is a lot more difficult than it was for this past fall semester.  That comfy bed becomes harder to get out of each morning when you know it’s freezing outside.  You have to let the car warm up, walk in the cold after parking, and it’s dark when you wake up AND when you get home! What seemed like an exciting routine a few months ago or even last year has now become, well, a little dreary. Nearly 25% of all college students across the United States suffer from the winter blues.  But there are ways to handle them!

What are the winter blues?  Do I have them?

Unstable melatonin levels, a hormone produced during sleep, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for mood, hunger, and sleep, cause the Winter Blues.  As the hours of sunlight decrease, sufferers of the winter blues experience changes in their mood, energy level, and ability to concentrate.  They can change the way a person thinks, reacts, and deals with everyday challenges. If you experience two or more of these symptoms each year in the fall and into the spring you may suffer from the winter blues:

  • Increased feelings of lethargy
  • Difficulty waking up in the mornings as the days get shorter
  • Difficulty concentrating and thinking creatively in comparison to the summer months
  • Incorrectly blaming oneself for things that go wrong
  • Difficulty performing tasks that normally seem to be easy/enjoyable
  • Increased craving for carbohydrate-rich food like chocolate and sodas

How can you deal with the college winter blues?

Unfortunately the climate won’t change, but the good news is that more than 85% of people with the winter blues can overcome these symptoms with various forms of therapy.  First and for most, stay focused on getting up and going to class.  Don’t think about it, just do it. Spring Break is only a couple of months away!  Stay excited by beginning to plan that trip to the beach with your friends!

Bring more light into your life.

Literally. The more bright light you’re exposed to each morning, the better. If you get up after sunrise, you could go outside or sit by a large window — even on cloudy days.

Light Boxes

Light boxes emit high intensities of light and produce similar effects to the sun’s natural rays.  These boxes are best used daily and in the early morning for periods of 30 minutes to two hours.

Beat the Winter Blues

Beat the Winter Blues

Exercise

Stay healthy by exercising!  It improves mood and has been shown to reduce stress.  Briskly walking to classes, taking a run, biking, have all be proven to help sufferers of the blues feel better.

Take advantage of the University of Memphis student fitness center.  Get a membership to the local YMCA. (It’s month to month and cost determined by your income).  ATC fitness is only $15/month, $25/month with unlimited tanning.

Dawn Simulation

With this system, an incandescent light in your bedroom is set to a timer. It comes on before sunrise and slowly increases in brightness.

What to Eat

Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to pay a little more attention to your diet.  After all, that Spring Break trip will be here before you know it!   Although you may have a craving, avoid junk food and soda.  A better strategy is eating larger portions of complex carbohydrates, like wheat pasta and brown rice, and healthy simple carbohydrates like fruits and fruit juices and avoiding unhealthy snacks that cause momentary relief, but ultimately decrease energy

Sleep Strategies that help

Many college students tend to go to sleep late and wake up late, which means they are often asleep when the morning sun is up and shining. This sleep-wake schedule limits your exposure to sunlight.

Make an effort to expose yourself to sunlight in the early morning.

Take a walk outside or lift the curtain in your room as soon as you rise.  Also, try to limit sleep to 8-hour periods on a regular schedule.  This will give you more energy during the day and reduce feelings of depression.

Recognize, too, that you just might be burned out—and that is normal. Your focus should be on what new and exciting things you can try to help rekindle the fire you had when you first stepped foot on campus. Is there a cool club you can join, or some type of leadership position for which you can apply? Can you get a part time job somewhere on campus or somewhere nearby?  That will lead to new interactions, meeting new people, and much needed money for that Spring Break trip you’re planning!   Or can you volunteer somewhere to help get some perspective on all that you have to be grateful for (while giving back to your community, of course)?

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