Books Editor Rachel Campbell discusses how we can battle the blues that come with the dreary Glasgow winter.
Last winter was just shit, wasn’t it? I was in a cold tenement flat with a stubbornly broken boiler, and on-and-off restrictions combined with online classes meant I rarely saw beyond those four walls. I couldn’t often go for a run to clear my head and socially-distanced meetups with friends were close to impossible on the icy streets of Paisley in January. On top of this, I felt as though the darkness outside was finding its way into my head. The more the rain and sleet fell, the less sun I saw, the more I felt demotivated, nihilistic, and not far off the grey slush on the pavements outside. Last year, the winter months had a profound effect on my mental health as we faced them alongside the pandemic. As we approach winter again this year, I am apprehensive about how it will affect my mood again and feel the need to make conscious decisions to combat the inevitable effect of the so-called “winter blues”.
Most of us feel lacking in motivation and an overarching gloom as the days get shorter and colder, and some have a more extreme version known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), where the change in season has a debilitating effect by causing a recurrent depression. I think being more isolated than usual last year shed light on how much the winter can affect our mood, and if you do think you are suffering from SAD, it’s important to reach out for help. Additionally, recognising how your mental health is being affected by external factors, and your power to combat that in any way you can, is also important. I don’t mean to say that the following suggestions are a list of ways to solve a mental health disorder, but taking what steps you can to help you feel a bit better at this time of year does have merit.
"Recognising how your mental health is being affected by external factors, and your power to combat that in any way you can, is also important."
So, what can we do? Covid-19 is still affecting the uni gym, with showers yet to be opened for all activities bar swimming, making it hard for students to get in exercise which can be a much-needed endorphin boost for those struggling at this time of year. Running outdoors is also difficult when it’s dark for so much of the day. To this I’d say anything is better than nothing. If you can join a weekly club where you can do some exercise and destress- brilliant. If not, getting outside for a walk around Kelvingrove between classes will help you make use of the little sun there is, in the form of a guilt-free break from studying. Doing ten minutes of yoga to start your day off having moved, achieved, and taken time for yourself is a good way to combat the effects of outside circumstances you can’t control.
Another important way to help manage your mental health when the seasons are doing their worst is to try and eat well. We’re all guilty of living off pasta during the semester but taking one night a week to make something hearty will fuel your body and help you associate this time of year with the great food that isn’t the same in the summer. Revel in the roast potatoes. This could also be a great way to have your flatmates come together once a week, giving you time to check in with each other. Maybe you could all pitch in with the cooking too; making a full roast dinner might seem less daunting when you can delegate the seasonal veg.
Whilst it may seem silly, relishing in the festivities of this time of year can help it seem a bit less dreary. Dress up for Halloween, hang up some fairy lights or do some festive baking. Getting into the spirit of whichever holidays you celebrate at this time of year can give you something to look forward to after another week of sitting at a screen watching the daylight pass you by. Embracing the fact that we can’t do much about the weather but focusing on some of the good things this time of year does bring, could go a long way in helping to combat how this season naturally affects us.
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