How to fight the winter blues: top tips and advice for students experiencing low mood during the winter months

Beating the winter blues

Yep, it’s that time of year again. The clocks have gone back and many of us find ourselves making our journeys to and from uni without so much as catching a glimpse of the sun.

For many people, particularly younger generations, this has a significant impact on their wellbeing, leading to varying degrees of lethargy, over eating, loss of sleep and periods of depression. When you combine this with hours spent in the library or at your desk doing an assignment you run the risk of seriously affecting your health. Here I take a look at the simple things we can all do to help beat the winter blues.

Eat Well

Ok it’s one we’ve all heard before, but not without good reason. If you start the day with a healthy breakfast (and a strong cup of coffee!) you’ll not only kick-start your metabolism, but you’ll kick start your mind. Eating before you head to class will make you more alert for the day ahead and bring you out of that just-woken-up feeling.

Everyone knows how tempting as it might be to grab something sweet if you’re looking for a quick burst of energy before a lecture, but it won’t be long before you feel even more sluggish than you did before. Instead opt for something low in sugar but rich still rich in carbs, like a sandwich or a piece of fruit. Remember, natural foods give you natural energy.

Research shows that if you keep warm you’re less like to experience bouts of depression during the winter months, so try to have lots of warm drinks and a hot meal every day.

Sleeping

Most students already have pretty irregular sleeping patterns, what with nights out, deadlines and 9am lectures, so it’s bad news when the winter blues hit and you find yourself still wide awake hours after you first went to bed.

If you are finding that you’re struggling to get to sleep, the best thing to do is try to make your sleep pattern as regular as possible to help your body adjust to your needs. Make sure you don’t go straight from writing an essay to counting sheep as you’ll almost certainly be too wired to nod off.  Set aside at least 20 minutes to do something completely different; try reading a magazine, watching some TV or just chill out with your housemates. Avoiding drinking too many caffeinated drinks after midday as by the time your head hits the pillow you’ll be buzzing too much too get to sleep. 

Music

We’ve all got our favourite songs which we associate with positive emotions and these can be used really effectively to give you a boost first thing in the morning or at any point during the day. So when you’re feeling a bit down and lacking in energy, pick your favourite upbeat tune and play it for a while – you’ll soon start to feel more positive about the day.

Exercise

Exercise is the perfect stress-buster. Not only does it help you to get rid of some pent up emotions, you’ll finish feeling relaxed, re-energised and pleased that you’ve had a workout. Studies have proved that if you exercise regularly then your overall mood will improve significantly. So why go along to one of KU’s sports clubs.

Sunlight

If you’re feeling low because you’re not getting enough sunlight it makes sense that you should try to get as much as you can so always sit by a window where possible. You could go for a walk or a bike ride during a break between classes – the fresh air will help keep you alert and focused too.

The Ajala Spa at St Pauls Grange Hotels has recently opened a unique sunlight therapy treatment room, where a half an hour treatment will cost you £20. For a more long-term solution, you could buy your own sunlight therapy lamp for as little as £50 to use all season long. 

You might also consider taking a vitamin D supplement to replenish the vitamins lost through the lack of sunlight you’re exposed to.

Talk about it

If you’re experiencing winter blues you’re probably not feeling much like socialising, but it really is worth taking some time out to chat to others about how you’re feeling – chances are some of them are probably feeling the same way as you.

If you think you may be experiencing more severe symptoms you should make an appointment with your doctor. Seasonal Affective Disorder, aptly known as SAD, is a recognised condition and there are a number of treatments available to help sufferers. 

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