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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion

OPINION: Cloudy days do not always mean a cloudy heart

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This was my first winter in the mighty Midwest, and boy did I underestimate the chill.  

As an Indian who is well accustomed to having the sun shine everyday, going days without the sun coming out brought with it more challenges than one.  

Being forced to layer up was bad enough, but I felt the emotional and mood changes kick in after going four days without the sun coming out. I could feel myself becoming lethargic, unmotivated, grumpy and overall unhappy. I realized I was dealing with the widely dreaded, big bad monster all international students were told about — seasonal depression.  

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as seasonal depression, is a type of depression associated with changes in the weather. Shorter days with little to no sunlight can trigger a chemical change in the brain which can lead to fatigue, depression and social withdrawal.  

Additionally, the sleep hormone melatonin; is produced more when it’s dark, thus people tend to have an increased melatonin level during the winters. This can result in drowsiness, loss of interest and increased sensitivity to rejection and anxiety triggers.  

People may not be negatively affected by the weather to the extent of an official  diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder, however, many can experience these symptoms at a minor level.  

I did not experience any significant symptoms in December, but as soon as January came around and the temperatures plummeted to minus 8 degrees, the fatigue, hopelessness and sadness hit. I had heard a lot about seasonal depression and was committed to taking care of my mental health to manage it. 

Being a first-year international student can be taxing on one’s mental health in a multitude of ways. Here are some ways to cope with the weather if you are a new Midwesterner experiencing the cold for the first time! 

Connect with your community  

Whether you’re an international student or not, being away from home and friends is hard, especially with gray skies throughout the day. Spend some time finding people from your community and connect with them. Having familiar conversations and a comforting environment helps reduce stress, anxiety and induces a feeling of home and safety, which in turn boosts dopamine and endorphins.  

Befriend the snow 

Being from India, I had never seen snow before, so the first time I saw snowflakes fall from the sky  onto my nose and hands was exciting. However, after the initial excitement, the bitter cold and neverending gloom got to me, both physically and emotionally. The best way to overcome the cold is to engage in activities that help you embrace/appreciate the snow. Being in the Midwest for your first winter can be a major shock, however, activities like skiing, ice skating, making snow angels and snow ball fights with your friends can help make this gloomy time be fun too.  

Cozy drinks are your best friend  

The cold makes some familiar favorites like iced coffee tough to enjoy. However, hot chocolate is the perfect for this weather. Hot chocolate loaded with marshmallows and peppermint can help make you feel warmer during cold weather. Not only that, but cacao helps reduce stress levels, making this an ideal drink to escape the blues and deal with first year stress and being away from home.  

Allow yourself to feel low  

Lastly, as exhausting as this weather gets, and as tiring as it is to keep pushing yourself to meet deadlines, remember to allow yourself to feel low. The winter is a tough time for everyone, especially if you’re not used to the cruelties of the wind in the Midwest. So take time to simmer down and unwind. Ask for help when you need it, and know that you’re not the only one feeling the down — many around you probably are too, they’re just hidden under the layers of jackets!  

 

Pehal Aashish Kothari (she/her) is a freshman studying marketing and a minor in apparel merchandising. 

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