Core Programs extends a warm welcome as you enter into 2016. We know that for many of us, the holidays can bring up mixed emotions for many reasons–let’s be real. Also, whether you’re new to the Pacific Northwest or a seasoned local, the winter months can prove to be challenging to your mood. We’d like to offer strategies that can help you navigate the quarter both logistically and emotionally.
Keep your energy up. During the winter months, getting vitamin D is important to lifting your mood. If you’re working inside, open your curtains and blinds to let light in or sit in a café with large windows. Take a couple of breaks during the day and go for a walk on campus or your neighborhood—the goal is to feel and absorb any light. Invest in vitamin D tablets. Cut back on sugary foods which tend to make you feel tired. Include fresh fruit in your diet which can give you that much-needed energy boost that lasts longer.
Monitor self-beliefs. Academia can foster an environment where you feel like you aren’t smart enough or doing enough. You can counter irrational thoughts with realistic strategies: Review and make a plan to get things done (daily, weekly, monthly). Meet with peers (they can be colleagues from other departments) to discuss your progress, and hold each other accountable for getting things done. Fill out an individual development plan and schedule appointments with your faculty advisor to discuss your goals. Practice resisting negative self-talk with neutral and honest affirmations.
Stay connected. Graduate life can be isolating, and this feels pronounced during the winter quarter when it gets dark and cold. Avoid isolation by sharing workspace at a café with colleagues. Call or skype a friend or loved one. Attend social events even if you can only stay for 30 min. Make time to relax and socialize with friends or family. If you prefer alone time (not the same as being isolated), schedule time away from work to do things you enjoy.
Seek support. There is no shame in seeking help from a mental health professional, if you are struggling to cope emotionally. This is especially true if you are experiencing depression or anxiety. The Counseling Center is an excellent resource for mental healthcare. King County also provides a list of low-cost mental health providers.