January 10, 2020

Surviving Spring Semester

Anxiety & Depression
Mental Health & Wellbeing

You might be looking at the title of this post and think it doesn’t apply to you because you’re no longer a student who has to worry about spring semester. However, I think spring “semester” is a phenomenon that affects us all, no matter how long we’ve been out of school.

I’m defining spring semester as that dark period of time between January and May. This is the time when the weather can be all sorts of crazy (subzero temperatures, blizzards, snow on Mother’s Day, flooding, etc). The lack of sunlight causes many of us to feel blue. This is also the time when we have very few holidays or three day weekends to look forward to (unless you’re allowed MLK, President’s Day or Good Friday off from work). You might also be feeling down because the amount of money you spent over the holidays has you concerned for your finances. In 2020, elections are ramping up, which means extra strain in your newsfeed and in conversations with friends.

For those who are actually in college, spring semester feels like it drags on (and in some ways, spring break means that it does). There’s the mounting pressure for summer internships or finding post graduation jobs. If you’re going on to additional schooling, you’re pushing to submit final applications before deadlines.

With all of this stress and gloom, how do you survive this period that can feel like the longest 16 weeks of every year?

Practicing Mindfulness and Gratitude

Mindfulness happens by taking each day as it comes. When you think about the fact that temperatures might be below freezing for weeks on end, this quickly becomes overwhelming. The thought of being stuck inside and not spending as much time in light and nature can be stressful, Mindfulness scales this back to reflecting on what is happening each day. Gratitude helps you focus on the positives. Was there a beautiful sunrise? Were you able to have a successful day at work? What is one fun thing you were able to do that day?

When you practice gratitude, it helps you focus on the things you can enjoy about winter, even if the cold requires changes to your routine.

Fighting Fear of Failure

By the middle of January, many people have realized that their New Year’s resolutions are going to be challenging to finish. The first credit card bill from the holidays is due, which could add stress to finances. For college students looking for jobs, the stress of updating resumes, portfolios and LinkedIn pages might cause you to wonder if you’ll ever do enough to compete for the best jobs. When all these things happen, you might feel like a failure. In these instances, mindfulness can be helpful again.

When you feel like you’re failing, mindfulness can break up large goals into smaller, more easily accomplished steps. Instead of looking at massive to-do lists, ask yourself what you can reasonably accomplish each day to move toward your goals. Can you cut out an expense each day to instead save toward debt repayment? Is there a networking event you can attend with a friend? Has someone invited you to try out a class at their gym? All of these things feel much easier to accomplish each day and move you closer to your goals.

Cozy Activities

Winter can be a difficult season to tackle, but there are things you can do to enjoy the season. I’ve found that I often do all of the fun winter activities in December and then I don’t want to do them for the rest of the year. Instead, spread out sledding, ice skating, skiing and other activities throughout the winter months. Find indoor hobbies that you can enjoy, like going to spas, attending game or trivia nights at local hangouts, bowling, community centers, and indoor water parks.

When you’re inside with friends and family, it can feel suffocating. Adding activities you enjoy can change those trapped feelings. Many areas offer free activities that you can do throughout winter so that you feel less alone.

Never ending winter can be tough and seasonal depression is a real thing. If you find that you feel suffocated or unmotivated in January and February, a therapist can help you refocus. If you’re not sure what the new year holds for you, a therapist can help you navigate that as well! Call today to begin coping with the challenges that spring “semester” brings all of us.

Written by therapist Elise Champanhet

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