In a study conducted by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, 71% of college students feel that their stress and anxiety has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was expressed in a number of ways, including worry about their own health and that of their loved ones, difficulty concentrating, poor sleeping habits and decreased social interactions due to social distancing. With the college semester coming to a close, concerns about the pandemic’s toll on students’ mental health have shifted to another area.
Holiday depression — commonly referred to as the holiday blues — is a feeling that resonates with many during the holiday season. People often experience loneliness, anxiety and depression about events in their past. Beth Meier, the director of Meredith’s Counseling Center, explained that understanding your feelings is key to addressing them. “Often we have high expectations for what happiness the holidays are supposed to bring,” Meier said. “Moreover, our need for connection, relief and peace is exacerbated by the pandemic. Many are feeling pressure and distress financially, emotionally, physically and socially.”
To help cope with these emotions, Meier suggests practicing self care like a bedtime routine, healthy eating and exercise. “Cut out self criticism,” Meier said. “Focus on finding solutions, ways to lessen depression and add moments of pleasure.” Below is a list of additional suggestions for how you can follow Meier’s advice and deal with the holiday blues.
Set boundaries with the people you’re staying with. Try to advocate for yourself as best you can while you’re away from your normal residence. A great way to do this is to let the people you’re staying with know about any habits you’ve picked up while away. For example, you can say that you would like them to knock before coming into your room. This outlines your limits and gives your housemates clear ways to respect them.
Prioritize your sleep schedule. Getting enough sleep is an important factor in maintaining your mental health. Set a bedtime and try to stick to it. Even if you can’t, developing a bedtime routine to follow can help foster comfort in your temporary environment. This could consist of shutting off your phone an hour before bed or listening to music prior to sleeping.
Take time for yourself. Set aside an hour or so in your day to practice self care. Go on a walk, read a book, listen to music or do any other activities that bring you peace. Refer to this list for additional activities you can incorporate into your routine.
Stay in touch with your support system. While apart, plan time to talk with your friends or family on the phone. Maintaining these lines of communication can help with feelings of isolation and give you someone to confide in during this time.
Seek professional help if you need to. As helpful as your support system can be, it’s best to talk with someone who is an expert if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Meredith’s Counseling Center staff will return to work on Jan. 4 to provide telehealth counseling. To make an appointment, students can email email@example.com or call and leave a message at 919-760-8427. Below is a list of websites that you can use to find other counseling in your area:
Do what you can to protect your mental health this holiday season. Regardless of which method you use, know that there are people who love you and want to support you.
By Aminah Jenkins, Staff Writer