Anxiety and Winter

Shayna Sullivan ‘22

    I have been struggling with anxiety for my entire life. Even though I still function relatively normally, it has quadrupled the obstacles that I have had to face in my personal and academic life while in college. With the winter months upon us, conditions like depression and anxiety can worsen due to seasonal affective disorder. I wanted to focus on anxiety because I believe, at least for me, the list of things that trigger my anxiety increases as the temperature decreases. The COVID-19 pandemic has also not done me any favors when it comes to lightening the load of things to panic about. 

    College, as a whole, increases the anxiety levels of students. The winter brings about new worries such as picking classes for the new semester, final exams, final grades, and last but not least, family and friends. It can come in all shapes and sizes for different people, so people must remain judgment-free. Just because anxiety looks one way in one person does not mean it will be the same for every person that suffers from it. 

Many things can bring about anxiety during the winter months. One that is very prominent in the northeast is snowstorms. Snowstorms can cause issues for college students when it comes to driving home from winter break. In the past few years, I know that storms have been forecasted for the day I was scheduled to go home, which caused a build-up of anxiety for me. By the end of the semester, many students just want to go home, and the possibility of snow prolonging can be a massive cause of anxiety. For cautious drivers like me, snow plays a considerable role in our ability to get from place to place safely. Snow can cause stress not only at the end of the semester but also throughout the winter months. 

Another more college-related anxiety source during the winter months is picking classes and the dreaded final exam period. These things can cause an unbelievable amount of stress on any college student, never minding one who suffers from anxiety. Picking classes is a huge factor in how the rest of your college career will go, especially when it comes down to getting into classes required for your major that have very few seats in them. Final exams can be worth a vast portion of your grade in a class, so this can be another added anxiety factor for students.  

More causes have to do with the stress that comes with catching up with family at large gatherings. Of course, if everyone is safe, this should not be happening this year, but for some, simply being at home can cause an increased anxiety level. Without places to escape this year, people may feel that their house is not where they want to be over winter break. When everyone is stuck in a house with nowhere to go, even the biggest houses can seem minuscule. For me, one thing that causes my anxiety to increase when I am home for winter break is making time to spend time with everyone from home. Whether it be friends or family, sometimes the one-month time frame is not enough, and it may seem like some people get let down. This problem can get worse when things such as work are factored in as well. Anxiety also increases because of changes in our lifestyles in the winter months. When it becomes colder, we start to stay inside more, leading to a decrease in mental health, including anxiety. 

    There are ways to fight against anxiety during the winter months. One way is to keep your diet healthy. Another way is to exercise regularly. Doing this will help keep your body healthy, which will, in turn, help keep your mind healthy. It is also essential to keep your mind busy as well. This is so your mind does not have the opportunity to wander and think about the things that cause you significant anxiety. I know that these things do not always work, but it is a way to help. 

*Valley Girl does not own the image used in this article.

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