Stress is no joke to most college students, especially as the weather turns colder, the skies turn grayer, and the wind chill is enough to seep down to your bones in a matter of seconds. Nights are longer and the added anxiety that comes with colder weather inconveniently seems to accompany increased stress and work as the school year advances. I’ve found myself struggling every year as the sky turns somber; when the weather no longer provides sunshine to sink into my soul I have to find ways to create it for myself. I think often seasonal affective disorder is given a taboo name in our society but the cold fingers that seem to wrap around your heart as the leafs fall are no joke, and no matter how you experience this feeling, it’s very, very real.
So what can we do to feel better even when the world is gray? Though finding sunshine might take more effort during the colder months it is in fact possible, as there is always beauty to be found in the world even when all the flowers have gone to rest. After year after year spent struggling through months where the skies are shadowy, after nights spent hardly sleeping and living each day just hoping to make it to the next real “break”, I’ve found some ways that personally help me find a peace in my heart, see the beauty in the silvery and clear world that surrounds me.
As simple as it seems, I believe there is nothing more powerful than your own breath. Allowing yourself to accept the feelings of stress, of anxiety, of sadness as real, as important and honest and authentic, and understanding how these feelings affect your body is one of the first steps of understanding how to control them. When your heart starts beating fast or your soul feels completely drained, focus on the root of your body, your very own breath. Think about how it is moving, think about how it feels, and focus on finding a calming rhythm, even if you feel as though the world is crashing down around you. I think being able to find peace within yourself is a skill that will continue to benefit you long after the flowers come out again.
2. Get Outside
My mom would always stress the importance of full-spectrum light to me, a natural source of happiness so it seems. There is something healing about simply stepping outside, filling your lungs with that cold, brisk air, and finding an adventure that you can do even if it turns your cheeks the color of strawberries and makes your nose tingle. Even in the coldest months the soul-filling benefits of finding even small times to go outside are substantial, a feeling you can’t get anywhere else. So bundle up, step outside, maybe run just a little bit until your heart is warm enough to seemingly warm you from the inside out, and take in the beauty of the exhilarating world around you, it does wonders.
3. Find Love
Surrounding yourself with people who make you feel truly yourself is perhaps one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy during the colder months. Whether your head feels overwhelmed with finals or end-of-year projects or your heart is simply weighing heavy with the frosty air, finding people who lift your spirits is one of the most healing things you can do to find joy within the gray months. Making time for people you love, and who love you in return, is perhaps one of the sole reasons I’ve made it through past winters, because I think more than anything, love in the world comes from those you surround yourself with.