The darker months are now upon us in Manchester and it can be very easy to experience tiredness, lower moods and what many experience, Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Later sunrise and earlier sunset can make it a lot less easy to be able to grab some vitamin D rays compared to what we are used to in the spring and summer months. This can impact our ability to maintain personal wellbeing from a lack of motivation and depleted energy levels…and of course, throw in that end-of-first-semester feeling and things can feel heavier. From experiencing some really difficult times with my own mental health throughout my undergraduate studies a few years ago, I have put together a few tips that can be adopted and adapted to suit you. If these ideas can light up how you feel even in the smallest ways, that is a great thing for you to take away.
Sun, sun, sun
If you are used to going to campus for 8-9am and come back home from 4-5pm, it can be pretty much still dark or not very much sunlight during these times. In spring and summer in the UK, these are great times to soak up some vitamin D, particularly if you’re outside for part of your commute. Over the darker months, when you can, take regular breaks outside during daylight hours to help keep up with getting enough sunlight exposure. There is plenty of research on regular daylight exposure, circadian rhythms, and our ability to function both on a daily and long-term basis. Let yourself get some fresh air to rejuvenate in between focused studying and in turn, you will catch some well-needed sunlight. If you need some additional light to help you wake up, there are plenty of sun lamps on the market that help to mimic the ‘waking up’ and ‘falling asleep’ effects of sunlight too.
Regular routine and a cosy space
Everyone has their preferred working routine to make the most of and get through their studies. If you can learn to work in the way that is best for you, that is amazing. Whether it is 9am-5pm, 10am-3pm or 12pm-9pm with a fair focus and getting something done, praise yourself for utilising the best way of working for you. Obviously accounting for scheduled lecture, seminar and workshops/labs – and jobs too – is important, but around that, accept how you love to work and own it. Make your study area at home comfortable and cosy…decorative lighting always brightens my mood!
Meeting your basic needs
Maintaining consistency with your basic needs of eating, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and getting a good night’s sleep means that you will most likely heighten your resilience for those more stressful times around exams and coursework deadlines. It is also handy in maintaining perspective when other opportunities get thrown your way such as job applications. By prioritising your wellbeing in the routine that suits you the most, you are less likely to be depleted when the more challenging times come around. Even if that means there are days where you do not get any study work done but you still manage to look after yourself. That’s perfectly okay.
Visit the Christmas Markets
If you’re new to the city, Manchester Christmas Markets are such a wonderful place to explore, even amongst the dense sea of people. Go for a hot drink and wander; or go for the budget version by making a brew in a reusable cup and walk with someone around there too. There are so many beautifully fairy-lit stalls for a cosy wander to enjoy bratwurst, sweet treats and get through your gift shopping list.
From personal experience, it can take some habit-building to keep on top of your wellbeing activities, particularly if you are new to living independently. Hopefully these are a few simple tips to not just get you through but embrace the gloomy but cosy months of Winter in the UK. Remember, should you need any direction to support with your wellbeing, the University’s student support website can help you to find the appropriate help generally or in an emergency. Wishing you a lovely and peaceful break.