Winter blues – what it is and how to overcome it

- in Nyheter, Studentliv

International student, Ondrej Gomola, has attended the University’s seminar on ’winter blues’ and shares some useful insights on how to combat the seasonal gloominess. 

On Tuesday evening, the Student Health Centre at Lund University organised an online seminar on ‘winter blues’, a commonly-experienced seasonal depression. People of all ages—international students like myself and even winter-hardened Swedes—experience this to varying degrees.

In this seminar, Åsa Probert—student counsellor at the Student Health Centre—outlined the phenomenon, how it affects our bodies and what we should do to mitigate the effects of ‘winter blues’.

In winter, the days are shorter, and this upsets our biological clock used to the long summer days. The longer darkness affects our hormonal balance—this is why we feel sad and experience the ‘winter blues’. This can be also compounded by the culture shock many international students experience when first moving to a new country. Often, the symptoms of a culture shock ‘slump’ are identical to that of Seasonal Depressive Disorder (SAD)—but both are absolutely normal, says Åsa Probert.

The weather also tends to worsen during the winter, leading people to spend more time indoors. However, this is when we need to “force ourselves” to be more active, especially during the day, she adds.

Here are some tips for overcoming—or at least living with—‘winter blues’:

  • Have a basic routine and plan ahead

Establishing a routine you follow on a regular basis helps immensely. When people feel down, they tend to take on less initiative and hence get involved in fewer activities. However, a routine forces you to partake in activities. By making plans to meet up with friends or even to go on a walk outside, you are more likely to go through in the end; the plans will have been in your schedule ahead of time.

  • Balance between your studies and free time

As anyone would tell you, a work-life balance is important—not only in winter. But it is key to have set moments in your week when you can relax and have some ‘me time’. Taking up a new hobby and being creative also helps you to unwind.

  • Social support

Being in touch with your friends or family and talking to others is known to be beneficial to one’s wellbeing.

  • Natural light!

Get as much natural light as possible, especially in the morning and go outside even if it is cloudy. This is very important to boost your ‘exposure’ to as much sunlight as possible—even if it is through a dense layer of fog. This also ties in with why you should try to sit near windows when possible.

Vitamin D and Omega 3 supplements are an option some people take, but they are by no means a requirement, says Åsa Probert.

Åsa Probert and the staff at Lund University’s Student Health Centre will be able to help you with any questions about ‘winter blues’ or other psychological health concerns. They also organise seminars on topics such as procrastination and stress management.

If you feel a bit down, don’t worry—it’s normal. We all experience it. Try following the tips above to feel better. Or maybe listening to Eiffel 65 on repeat will do the trick!