It’s that time of year where we throw a tree in our homes, adorn everything with red and green and play Mariah Carey on repeat. Families come together for a feast that could feed your college self for a whole week, and you are showered with Black-Friday-bought gifts. It seems like the jolliest time of the year, but there is also an underlying feeling of isolation during this particular season.
What is known as "seasonal depression" is the feeling of unhappiness, isolation and overall gloominess due to the season and time change. Many of us in college are often burdened with the stressor of finals. When you were in high school, Christmas was celebrated with family for the whole month of December. Friends back at home would have traditions that you kept ever since middle school, and teachers would play movies in class on the last week of school.
However, being away from home during the holiday season is especially hard when dealing with the end of the semester and coping with living on your own for the first time. It also does not help that college classes work you until the very end, and ensure you’re spending your holiday season in the library.
Speaking with other college students, I learned that I was not alone in this feeling. You have to realize that this disorder is not something made up or used for attention. Time change also accounts for this feeling – my sorority sister believes people equate sunlight with happiness, and by having days become darker, it not only changes your daily routine but it also changes the way you go about it.
Finals week is definitely a time where students dismiss their mental health for that stellar grade point average, but it ultimately takes a toll on them and returning home for the holidays is not the same.
I used to love the holiday season; the lights, the carolers, the shopping mall Santas, all of it. But ultimately, by not having that support during the holidays like I had in high school, I found myself feeling like I had to deal with everything by myself. Other friends seem to breeze through their finals, people around campus were packing up to go home and my anxiety was going through the roof.
However, being open about these feelings to my friends and sisters, I realized I was not alone and there are actually a lot of ways to combat this underlying seasonal blue. Here are some suggestions:
1. Take those study breaks and Facetime your family.
Instead of just taking a lap around the library for a study break, consider phoning your family for a couple minutes, because ultimately they know what will make you feel better in times of stress. Also if you left behind a furry friend, what better way to take the edge off than by seeing their cute little faces on the other side of the screen?
2. Gear away from social media.
Sometimes seeing others enjoying the holiday season so much brings you further into that isolating feeling. For one of my sisters, her parents divorced during this time and it always brings her into these seasonal blues. But what she does to combat it is stray away from the family pictures on Facebook and Instagram. Instead, she creates a sense of home with her boyfriend and two dogs.
3. Don’t feel afraid to confide in those who are with you at school.
While it may seem like you are completely stressed and alone on this feeling, you are not. Your neighbors in the dorms, people you pass in the dining hall, those sitting next to you in the library, they are all going through a similar struggle. Being able to talk about how you feel with others who know exactly what you’re going through, is a really comforting feeling. Making friends with your struggle-buddies might help this dark period of the semester go by a little quicker.
Always know that there is someone who is going through a similar struggle. The isolating feeling is like a placebo – you believe that you are alone in everything, causing you to shut people out and really become isolated. The holidays might feel different your first year of college, but do not feel like it is the end of your celebration of this joyous season. Make the best out of the situation, and create new traditions with college friends. Create your sense of home at school, and you’ll feel that warmth come back to you.
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