With the end of fall comes finals, winter blues, and darker mornings and nights. While this is part of the routine, it can cause a lot of undue stress, anxiety, and even depression. People mention having the “winter blues” which is also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can be easy to scoff at that, but as someone that has dealt with anxiety and depression on and off for majority of my life, seasons definitely affect my mood, energy, and overall motivation. And of course that affects how I deal with schoolwork and class load. And if there’s anything I’ve learned since going back to school full-time, mental health is just as important as physical health.
This semester, I’m taking 18 credit hours. And being a mom while doing it can make me feel stretched extremely thin, most of the time. On top of that, I’m an extreme introvert, which means I need a lot of down time and alone time to recharge, and that’s near impossible with my circumstances. I don’t say any of this to wallow or have a pity-party. It’s exactly the opposite, really. I’ve found a few things that help me maintain focus and keep energy positive during the winter months (or any time when I’m struggling). I have to mention that I am no health professional, this all just comes from my own personal experience.
1. Find time to breathe – Whether it’s taking a hot shower, staying up late to watch a show or read a book you really love, or taking a quick walk. Find at least 10 minutes in your day to breathe, cry, scream, or relax.
2. Know thyself. Be aware of your rhythms. I know that I focus much better earlier in the morning and that my focus is total crap in mid-afternoon. I know that I’m super motivated on Sundays, but Fridays are a struggle. I know that late-night cram sessions NEVER work for me, but then if I get to bed early and wake up early, I focus and remember a lot easier. And while I know that I won’t always get my ideal circumstance, the more I know about myself, the easier it will be to set myself up for success.
3. Know when to take a break. It can be really difficult to break away from the work when you have a lot stacked up against you, but you have to be kind to yourself. Whether it’s a 30 sec, 30 minute, or 3 hour break, know when it’s necessary. Sometimes, it will mean skipping a class…if you need to, do it.
4. A good laugh and a hot shower cure a whole lot of stress. Self-explanatory!
5. Know when to buckle down. At some point, you just have to buckle down and get it done. No excuses, no bitching, no complaining.
6. Remember that school is not the end-all, be-all. Life is bigger than a degree. Believe me, I know that it feels like everything hangs in the balance and is crucial to every move you make. Your career, your future, everything can seem extremely overwhelming around this time of year. Just try to remind yourself (even if you have to repeat it out-loud to yourself..) This degree does not define me. And life is happening and is much bigger than any of this.