If there is one thing I have learned as a college student it’s that adjusting to new environments and the feelings associated with these environments is extremely difficult. At first, during the first few weeks of college, when the sun was out and shining and everything was so new and exciting, I felt like I was on top of the world. I can remember wondering why so many people would complain about adjusting to college life, because I felt like I had things down very early. As the weeks went on though, and there was always something fresh being introduced, I began to feel more and more overwhelmed. The days got longer, colder, and gloomier (typical of a Midwestern winter) and I began to feel more and more down in the dumps. If you read my last article you know by now that I have depression and anxiety, but there is also another form of mild depression that a lot of people experience called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or, quite literally, S.A.D. This disorder if very common during the darker winter months, and causes symptoms such as irritability, low energy, problems getting along with other people, oversleeping, appetite changes, and agitation or anxiety. As a college student, life seems extra hard and often times these stresses and symptoms pile up on each other. As a follow up to my last piece about mental illness, I thought it might be a good idea to come up with a list of activities for college students that can help deal with S.A.D.
Get out and be active
I know this one is pretty cliché but seriously, even an hour of physical activity can make a difference in your day. It gets your endorphins going, and can give you that feeling of a “runner’s high”. Whether you’re running, walking, or doing some form of weight training, you’re almost guaranteed to feel better, even if it’s just for a couple of hours.
See an animated movie
This seems a little silly, I know, but going to see an animated movie has the ability to make you feel like a little kid, and who wouldn’t want to feel that way again? Sometimes, when you’re stressed or sad, taking a step back from your reality and entering a realm of childish sparkle and curiosity can be just what you need. By the way, I highly recommend the new film, "Sing!"
Go on a road trip
You don’t necessarily need to plan a cross-country road trip visiting all the best landmarks in the U.S. but even getting out of your college town (mine happens to be very small and quite boring) can be a good change of pace. Even if it’s just an hour away, it’s good to get out of your usual scene and maybe get some better eats, shopping, and sites while you’re at it.
Try to spend some time with animals
I know I’m not the only one who freaks out every time they see a dog on a college campus, but unfortunately, that doesn’t happen as much as I would like it to! A good idea though is to look up your nearest animal shelter (almost every county has one) and simply go visit and spend time with the animals. This can be super therapeutic, and I guarantee these rescue animals will appreciate it as much as you do. (Also, here’s a quick plug… but if you’re going to get an animal, adopt!)
Sometimes changing the scenery of where you live and sleep every day can be a positive change. When I got back from one of my longer breaks, I rearranged my bed and my roommate and I changed the decorations in our dorm. Sometimes seeing the same thing every day gets boring and can make you feel like you’re stuck in a rut. So switch it up, and when you get bored from that, switch it up again! Change is good.
In my last article, I talked about how journaling is a great way to get your feelings out on paper, and I can’t stress enough how beneficial this can be. It allows you to track your moods, and you have the ability to look back on the good times to remind yourself of the positive aspects of your life when you’re going through a rough patch. You can also notice when your moods may really be off, and it can be a helpful warning sign that you might need to make some more drastic life changes in order to feel better mentally.
Dance it out
Super cheesy right? But seriously, daily dance parties with my roommate and friends is something I look forward to every day. Just turn on some power anthems and dance out your sadness!
Call your mom or dad
Seriously, they love to hear from you, and they probably don’t hear from you enough. Even when you feel like you’re a fish out of water, your parents have the ability to bring you back to ground level. Let them coddle you every now and then, and listen to their advice on how to handle things, because chances are they are almost always right. They were in our shoes once, too!
Surround yourself with the people who feel like home
This may seem like an obvious one, but sometimes we need to evaluate which people make us feel the most ourselves. If the people you are surrounded by are not making you completely content and you feel like you’re holding back who you really are, then find new people. That’s the beauty of college- there are so many people you have yet to meet, you just have to look for them!
Do something that allows you to feel like you’ve “re-set”.
Sometimes, when the going gets really tough, we just need to take a step back from the situation and make a slight change that can, in turn, change our perspectives on things. “Re-setting” is different for everyone, but for me, it’s the idea of doing something that allows you to appreciate positive perspectives on life/ your school and why you chose it in the first place. Sometimes we don’t let ourselves even take a breath and we are constantly “go, go, go”. It can be super helpful to remove yourself from what might be causing you stress so that you can return with a fresh, more optimistic outlook on our lives at the schools we call home.