Moving from Costa Rica to Toronto meant that I was forced to adjust to the sheer environmental change between the two. Despite expecting this shock when I enrolled in university, I’m still dumbfounded at how much I miss seeing nature — the fat squirrels around campus do not count, and neither do the pigeons. I went from a bedroom view of the mountains surrounding the city of San José to a dorm view of a single, barren tree. The cold weather and accompanying ice and snow has further confined me to my dorm in recent months. When asked how I coped with these extreme changes to my surroundings, my advice was, and continues to be, three-fold.
First, I stay busy. It can be hard to find things to do when going outside feels like a cold slap to the face, so I decided to find ways to stay busy inside: invite friends over, learn how to cook, buy a colouring book, or read. I know these mundane actions don’t seem exciting, but they are the best way to enjoy the indoor confinement.
Second, take vitamins. I never really thought vitamin deficiency from staying indoors was a thing, or that the lack of sun would cause such an impact on my mental health, but vitamins help your body make up what it’s losing by staying inside. Since I am not a doctor, I recommend contacting one and finding out what vitamins will help you, or if you personally need them at all.
Third, join a club, get a job, or get a new hobby that is not limited by the weather. Personally, what has been helping me get through the winter was beginning free dance classes in university. With such a diverse group of people confined to this small area of the city, there are so many clubs and activities to take part in. On the other hand, if your intent is to use the winter to save money, check out U of T’s Career Learning Network online or create an account on LinkedIn and apply away!
The winter time has a way of making me feel more tired, lazy, and honestly, like a disappointment because of the first two characteristics. I’m the kind of person who is always keeping busy because working hard provides a safe outlet, but the winter makes me not want to work at all.
The winter blues come from a feeling of loneliness that surrounds the usual post-holiday season, and most of us college students have to go back to our independence when, a couple of weeks prior, we were accompanied by loved ones. I mean, who would have thought that university can be lonely!
Despite my three-fold, aforementioned advice, there is one more tip that I have when dealing with seasonal depression and just the overall sad feeling that comes with any kind of change. Be kind to yourself — something that is easier said than done. Be patient with your body, and don’t push yourself if that’s not what you want to do.
If you want to work hard and get things done, then being sympathetic to yourself helps give your mind and body motivation to keep going. Being surrounded by good company does not only mean being around people who you feel comfortable with, but being able to find that feeling in yourself, and not defining moments alone as being lonely.
To be able to get past the common feeling of isolation that always seems to come around when the temperature drops, being comfortable in your own skin and finding ways to have fun by yourself always help, since sadly we can not always be accompanied by those we love the most.
Like all other things, winter does not last forever. Don’t let that little voice inside your head make you think that the sadness or laziness you encounter now defines you in any way, shape, or form.