Shorter days, cold weather and a lack of sunlight – winter sure can be difficult to get along with. If you tend to feel lethargic, irritable and low during this time of year, you’re not alone. In fact, one in three of us fall foul of the winter blues to some extent.

And when you add Christmas into the mix, and the emotions and stress it can bring, this season can sometimes feel a whole lot less than jolly.

Just as at any other time of your life, when you’re a student, mental health should be very much a priority. So, if you struggle during winter, we’ve got tips on how to boost your mental wellbeing. From planning fun things to eating well, hopefully our student advice will help give you a brighter outlook about the darkest season.


Get as much light as you can

Lack of sunlight means our vitamin D levels are depleted during the darker months. Vitamin D stimulates the production of serotonin (our ‘happy’ hormone), whereas the darker days can also lead to an overproduction of melatonin in some people. This is the hormone which regulates our sleep/wake cycle and helps promote sleep.

This one-two punch is the reason why we can feel lethargic and depressed, and is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Other symptoms include sleeping for extended periods and craving carbohydrates.

To combat this, make sure you get out in natural light as much as possible. This could be by going for a morning run or taking a break from studying to eat lunch outside or meet a friend for a walk.

When inside your student accommodation, try to sit close to your windows and keep your room as light and airy as possible, making sure your windows are clean and free from plants and knick-knacks.


Plan some fun things to do

If the winter just seems like an endless season of studying and staying in, make sure that you have some fun activities planned.

Try and embrace the fun things about the season – whether that’s donning Christmas jumpers for a pub lunch by a roaring fire, going ice skating, listening to a carol concert or making Christmas dinner with your housemates. Celebrating the good things about the season will hopefully help you feel more positively about it in the future.


Look after your health

Often if we’re feeling down and lethargic, it’s easy to succumb to the pull of the sofa and junk food. While that’s ok once in a while, staying in and eating badly can trap you in a vicious mental-health cycle.

Commit to eating healthily. Focus on foods that contain vitamin D such as oily fish, red meat, mushrooms and orange juice; energy-boosting vitamin B-12 foods such as eggs, meat, fish and dairy (or nutritional yeast or supplements if you’re vegan); and vitamin C-rich fruit and vegetables.

As cold as it is outside, regular exercise will help keep your energy levels up and is great for your mental health. So, wrap up, grab a friend and do a few laps of the park.


Limit your alcohol intake

Alcohol is intrinsically linked to Christmas and it can be hard to limit your intake at this time of year.

However, if you’re already feeling down, drinking can make you feel a lot worse. Not only can it heighten your existing emotions, but the subsequent hangovers can bring anxiety and low moods. Hangovers rob us of our energy too, meaning we’re more likely to stay in and indulge in unhealthy behaviour.

Try not to drink by yourself. If you do go out, set yourself a limit – there are various apps for this. See you can rope a friend in for moral support. If you find the temptation too strong, then why not arrange some non-drinking activities – a winter walk, trip to the cinema or bowling?


Celebrate Christmas your way

If you find Christmas a particularly hard time of the year for whatever reason, just remember that you don’t have to fall in line with everyone else.

Remind yourself that Christmas doesn’t last forever, and plan something nice to do afterwards. Having something to look forward to can really make a difference.

You can also make more positive associations with Christmas by finding ways to past the time in your own way. Whether that’s by going away and escaping your surroundings entirely, trying a new hobby or even volunteering or working over the Christmas period.