‘Tis the season to be jolly, but if you’re not feeling festive you aren’t alone. Though the holidays are supposed to be filled with cheer, many people find themselves feeling stressed, sad, and anxious.
This year has been fraught with challenges. Your year at college was not what you expected, and holiday stress may be piling on top of it. Whether you’re battling your budget for gifts, overwhelmed with party planning, or struggling with difficult decisions about whether it’s safe or affordable to see your family, the holiday blues are real.
Don’t let the blues hamper your holiday season. With these simple tips, you can beat the holiday blues to stay in tip-top mental and physical shape through the new year.
1. Soak up the sun when you can
Though songs about white winters are aplenty, reality can be dreary. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects roughly 10 million Americans, triggering depressive episodes that appear during the fall and winter. Emotional stress triggered by the holiday season can worsen seasonal depression, leaving you feeling less than jolly.
Aim for 20 minutes of sun exposure per day as a natural mood-booster. Go for a walk around campus, eat your lunch in the quad, or grab your laptop and take one of your virtual classes outside. Sunlight triggers the release of serotonin in the brain, a hormone associated with improved mood as well as feelings of calm and focus.
2. Relearn the word “no”
On top of classes, homework, and independent study you have an endless list of social opportunities as a college student. Though your social calendar may not be quite as full these days, the holidays are bound to be busy.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with holiday plans and commitments, remember you can always say no. There’s no shame in politely declining an invitation and offering to reschedule. There’s no need to make excuses or apologize.
3. Find new ways to exercise
Regular exercise is important for physical health, but it plays a role in mental health as well. Exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression by improving cognitive function and boosting self-esteem. It has even been found to alleviate symptoms of social withdrawal.
Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be as simple as taking a walk through the neighborhood or grabbing your bike and hitting the trail.
Try out different types of exercise to see what you like – your school might even offer free workout classes you can take online. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of exercise three to five times per week.
4. Connect with others on a daily basis
Whether you’re attending college from home or in person, limiting social contact has become the new norm. Though you may not be able to simply wander down the hall to a classmate’s dorm room or stop into the campus dining hall to visit with friends, you can still find ways to connect with others.
Make an effort to connect with at least one person per day. Skip the text message and go straight for a phone call, or take the time to write an email or a letter to someone you haven’t talked to in a while.
If the weather is nice, grab your mask and take a walk with a friend. If you don’t feel comfortable meeting in person, meet up online through a virtual call.
5. Take a mental break from social media
Technology has made it easier than ever to stay connected, but constant access can be overwhelming. If the onslaught of bad news and negativity is bringing you down, take a break from social media.
Turn off your phone for a few hours or restrict your social media use to limited periods throughout the day. You may even want to try a digital detox and go completely tech-free for 24 hours to rest and refresh.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Everyone feels blue from time to time, but if your feelings of loneliness, sadness, or anxiety are disrupting your daily life, consider reaching out to a friend or family member for support.
You might also think about speaking to a mental health professional about treatment. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to get the help you need with telehealth companies offering online services like virtual therapy and online psychiatry consultations.
At the end of a busy college semester, the last thing you want is to be burdened by the holiday blues in what should be a season of cheer. If you’re feeling less than festive, don’t pressure yourself to push through in an effort to recreate holiday seasons past. This has been a year unlike any other and there’s no shame in taking a little time for yourself.
This holiday season, give yourself the gift of patience and take the time to focus on your personal health and wellness starting with the simple tips above.