Photo: FELIX NOAK
Sad looking male student sitting on the floor leaning against a wall.

Seasonal Depression: How to Cope with the Winter Blues

Feeling blue? You’re not alone. It’s just this time of the year in Berlin.

14.02.2020

by Evdokia Prassa

Who’s afraid of the winter blues? This is the part where I would raise my hand. And I know I wouldn’t be the only one. I attended studierendenWERK BERLIN’s “Dark Night” event on winter depression awareness and treatment in November. According to its psychological counselling team, seasonal affective disorder or SAD, as it is officially called (and ironically abbreviated), may have entered mainstream discourse but largely remains a taboo. Its impact on students should not be trivialized. Being a student in Berlin, Europe’s current place-to-be, is a privilege; but even the perks of living in a multicultural city that never sleeps are not always enough to outweigh the city’s gloomy, grey winter skies and cold temperatures. If we add the stresses of the winter semester to the mix, we have a recipe for the winter blues. And if you, like me or former Werkblatt author Duygu, originally come from a Southern climate where winters are for the most part sunny, you may have experienced the long winter in Berlin as an extra manifestation of culture shock.

But there are ways to cope with the winter blues. Here are the top 3 tips I gathered through studierendenWERK BERLIN’s “Dark Night”.

#1 Daylight + Movement = A Winning Combo

This is the most important tip (and by following it, you’ll be killing two birds with one stone). Cocooning might seem tempting when the melatonin levels in your body have spiked due to the lack of sunlight: you feel all tired and moody as a consequence. You open your curtains in the morning and the whitish-grey daylight makes you want to cozy up at home all day and marathon-watch your favourite series. It’s okay to give in to that feeling once in a while. Try not to overindulge, though: it’s crucial to get exposed even to that grim daylight. (I’ve learned to appreciate it the hard way after a short-lived winter routine, where I would leave home for the library in the morning when it was still dark and come back home in the afternoon when it was already dark again.)

Since it will most probably be too cold anyway to be outdoors without moving, it’s a good idea to take walks during daylight (or even squeeze in some jogging if it’s an activity you enjoy).

#2 More Movement!

Why not? Granted, it may not be a high priority when there’s essay deadlines coming up; but keeping active, even if it’s just once or twice a week, can make a big difference in your overall physical well-being, mental health included. But besides its long-term positive effects, let’s not forget the temporary euphoria that follows exercising, the so-called “runner’s high”: the strain of vigorous exercise on the body triggers the brain to increase the production of its “feel-good” chemicals, endorphins. Any form of workout will do: dancing, football, table-tennis, or simply hitting the gym. Just pick a physical activity you enjoy, and have fun!

#3 Eat More Carbs

You read that right. The keto diet trend may well have hordes of loyal followers, from celebrities to mere mortals, who managed to say goodbye to carbs once and for all. Then, there’s us, die-hard fans of bread and chocolate (with real sugar, that is). The consumption of carbohydrates boosts the release of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter dubbed as the “happy chemical” due to its essential role in our emotional balance. Now you have an extra reason to indulge in your carb cravings guilt-free (it’s still wise not to overdo it, though!).

 

Need support? studierendenWERK’s psychologists also offer a series of workshops aimed at international students and their specific needs.

 

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