What’s that nip in the air and the gradually shortening days mean?
“Winter is coming.”
As the changing of the weather sets upon all of us, a more subtle threat creeps in with the lengthening shadows of autumn. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects 4-6% of the population and likely affects queer youth of color at a more disproportionate rate, though evidence is inconclusive — but the correlation is certainly there. Dating while queer is hard enough and if, by this time of year (a.k.a cuffin’ season), we haven’t found someone to stay in with, those pesky feelings of loneliness have a way of seeming much more profound than usual.
If you’re a student – like myself – this time of year correlates with the bubbling over of general frustration that many students often feel as midterms and final exams close in.
With a few go-rounds of conquering this time of year under my belt, I offer a few tips to cope with those seasonal bouts of depression, and general sadness and angst.
- Give yourself some grace
As a student, this can be particularly game-changing. It’s easy to feel like the world turns on deadlines and due dates. In the same way, professionally, it’s hard to continuously maintain that energy of constantly being “on,” constantly accountable to people.
A mantra that I adopted around the end of junior year of undergrad was “If it don’t get done, it just don’t get done.”
If worse came to worse and I didn’t meet a due date – and this was rarely the case, but hypothetically – the world was not going to stop turning. If I was supposed to email an assignment by midnight, and I didn’t finish the assignment and send it until 8 a.m. the next morning, I wasn’t going to fail the class.
If I missed a deadline for work, if I ran out of time preparing for a lecture – it was never the end of the world.
- Practice Gratitude
Whenever I find myself in a funk, when life isn’t looking the way I’d like it to, whenever I happen to be on the verge of self-pity, it helps to make a list of 10 things I’m grateful for.
Okay, I stole that from Oprah – but it works!
Moving to a new city, while worthwhile, has been tough. And I haven’t had the funds to get home as often as I’d like to. Though I wouldn’t call myself homesick, I miss my family and friends dearly and seeing all the holiday-time family portraits and pans of mac & cheese on somebody’s Thanksgiving/Christmas family dinner table reminds me of what I don’t have.
But even if I couldn’t save enough for the flight: 1. I worked enough to pay the rent for one more month. 2. I am safe. 3. I am provided for. 4. I paid the wifi bill so that I can, at least, Facetime my loved ones. 5. I’m not so lonely, I’m only alone at the moment.
What do you have to be grateful for? Even in the thick of life’s shittiest moments, there’s something to be grateful for.
- Sit in It
Some days, the really bad ones, are more unbearable than others. No matter what you do,
sometimes it seems like you’ve hit a wall. And nobody’s cheering you up.
That’s okay, though.
No really, sometimes it’s helpful to “sit in it.” Feeling lonely, anxious, sad, hopeless,
angry? Feel that. As much as these feelings are not ideal, they are quite natural and it
does not help to run from them in every case. Sometimes it’s best to face your feelings.
If I am angry/anxious/over-stimulated, I might feel compelled to work out until my
muscles ache. If I am in a depressive lull, feeling lonely, or generally “aggy,” I might just sit in dark, solitary silence. In any case, my “sitting in it” has time constraints. After both of these scenarios, the likely course of events is a nap.
And naps are a game-changer.
After waking up from a good nap, the world seems just a little clearer. Things don’t seem as immediate, as pressing. Your mind has had it’s time to reboot.
In the grand scheme of things, deadlines are arbitrary, but your health – mental, physical, and emotional – are very real.
While avoidance is not always helpful in matters of wellness, allowing the mind to “breathe” a bit is also helpful. Pick your poison: video games, exercise, a night out, a blunt, or perhaps, even a book. Giving your mind time to work outside of something that requires your immediate and direct attention can be helpful. Activities like games, exercise, dancing/going out, partaking in your drug of choice and/or reading can direct the mind away from the anxiety-inducing tasks of day-to-day living.
- Adjust your paradigm
This last one is so much easier said than done.
It’s so hard –when you happen to be in the throws of trying to be an adult – to just look on the bright side. And in fact, it is something that takes daily practice.
But the pros of adopting a more optimistic world view are numerous:
- It enables you to handle and put your emotions in check.
- It promotes happiness.
- It promotes self respect and integrity
- It enhances various coping skills developed in order to combat life’s struggles.
- It forges persistence which is an essential trait required for achieving success.
- It creates a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.
- It promotes healthy living.
-List compiled by 45 Benefits of Optimism
Not being boo’d up this cuffing season isn’t the end of the world, and your midterms are not going to be the death of you. In the grand scheme of things, deadlines are arbitrary, but your health – mental, physical, and emotional – are very real. Take time to take care of yourself. Whatever, it is, you’ll get through it.
For more on LGBTQ+ Mental Health visit: Human Rights Campaign 2018 report