Self-care tips for coping with the winter months

By Tehrim Raza, NTU Alumni

As the winter months approach, many of us look forward to the festive season; roads brightly lit with the glow of festive decorations, special events and gatherings and deliciously spiced drinks, however, for some it can be a challenging time of year. The cold weather, lack of sunlight and shorter days can result in unexplained feelings of anxiousness, low mood, fatigue and a lack of energy and enthusiasm for things we once took an interest in. This shift can be unsettling, especially if it feels like there is no cause, or the onset of symptoms is sudden. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone!

At this time of year some people may struggle dips in their mood due to changes in the seasons. A lack of sunlight can affect our biological clock, levels of serotonin and melatonin and all of this can impact on our general wellbeing and mental health. To me prevention is the best medicine. Spotting the signs you are starting to struggle and having an awareness of how the winter months affects us means we can take steps to reduce its impacts on our wellbeing.

The term “self-care” is not an unfamiliar term to most and when we make the time to actually do some self-care, it can be much more than just a trending hashtag.

When approaching the winter months, the following self-care tips help me through:

  • Getting outdoors early or waking up as early as you can – with there being less light now getting up and out early will increase exposure to sunlight can help balance serotonin levels.
  • Try as much as possible to eat a balanced diet – a poor diet can lead to feeling sluggish, only adding low mood.
  • Exercise daily – even if it is just a brisk walk. Exercise can help your body to release endorphins which in turn can help you to feel more positive. Exercise does not have to be a chore. Find a physical activity such as a sport or class you know you will enjoy.  
  • Socialise – it can help to connect with family, friends or even those with similar interests as you to feel supported, or just have a good time. Now could be a great time to take up a new hobby or revisit an interest to help boost your mood. Volunteering is another great way to keep busy, make new friends and add to your CV at the same time.
  • Manage stress levels – university can be overwhelming especially when deadlines or exams are approaching. If you know your mood can be affected in the winter months, it can help to actively manage other priorities to help your overall wellbeing.
  • Reach out for support if you need it – whether it’s NTU’s Student Support Services or talking to a friend, talking to someone and reaching our for support when you feel you need can really help with getting yourself back on track if your mental health starts to slip. You are never alone.

The above points are just a few ways we can help improve our wellbeing, especially through the winter months, however there is no one approach for everyone as we are all unique. Find what works for you and helps you feel good to ensure you make the best of your experience at university. It might take a while to find your perfect go to self-care habits, but trying different things can help us figure out what works best!

For help, advice and resources whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.

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