Fighting the Winter Blues

By Ciera Horton
Distinguished Young Woman of Florida for 2013
-30 degree wind chill.
As a Floridian, I could not even fathom how cold the weather was going to be when I walked outside this morning.  We had been receiving email updates from the school provost about how this was the coldest it’s been in Wheaton, Illinois in about 25 years.  So, bundled up in more layers than ever before in my life, I stepped out into the icy vortex and off to class, facing the wind and snow yet again.
Going to college has brought many changes and unexpected differences in my life.  Suddenly, my entire world was not the same, with everything from my schedule to my diet to my wardrobe.  But one significant difference has also been the weather.  I grew up in Orlando, Florida, a sunny paradise that doesn’t usually get above 75 and so I went off to school never having seen snow.  My college is just outside of Chicago, so not only have I seen my fill of snow but I’ve also had to cope with intense winds.
I can tell you from personal experience that the winter blues really do exist.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can negatively impact how we feel and how we interact with others.  It can be so easy to succumb to the dejected mindset, losing motivation to get up in the morning and seize the day.  But despite moods that are plummeting with the thermostat, we can still remain joyful.
Here are some tips to keep moving and stay motivated this winter:      
  1. Exercise.  By keeping your body healthy and active, you are releasing endorphins and so you will feel better.  Strive to get aerobic exercise at least three times a week with moderate to vigorous intensity.
  2. Stay social.  Regularly interacting with others will help you stay grounded.  I’ve worked out my schedule so that I designate a certain time at night to be done with homework so that I have the chance to visit with friends and invest in relationships.  I also strive to keep in close contact with my family, since I’m living so far away from them.  This helps me when I’m feeling the winter blues because I’m reminded of the people in my life who care about me.
  3. Eat healthy food.  It may be tempting to reach for the sweets and sugary drinks like cocoa and cider, but try to minimize the sugar intake.  This will help you feel less lethargic and more motivated.  Studies also show that there is a common carbohydrate craving in winter, which is thought to be caused by lower levels of brain neurotransmitter serotonin.  It’s advised to try foods that are rich in nutrients, like leafy vegetable, milk, egg whites, white meat and fruits like apricots and grapes. 
  4. Consider supplements.  Taking Vitamin D might be a good idea to help your nutrient imbalance since you’re not getting the usual amount of sunlight in the wintertime.     

Though we may not actually enjoy the bleak skies and white blanket that covers the ground, we can still find joy in the winter season.

Philippians 4 reminds us, “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
We can be content wherever we are, in any circumstance.  Winter may have us excited for spring, but our desire for the future should not extend insofar as it detracts from the beauty of the present.  I’m learning day by day to be joyful in every circumstance — even in -30 degree windchill.

Ciera Horton is a college freshman at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois majoring in English. Originally from Orlando, Florida, Ciera was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Florida for 2013. Learn more about Ciera here!

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