I often credit it to being born in the unusually temperate Western coast of Australia, but I get the winter blues bad. Like real bad. In all honesty, this past month was the first June I’ve ever spent in Wellington. In the past I’ve utilised the semester break to flee back to my parent’s place in the “winterless north” (which is a misnomer if I ever heard one, but at least Whangarei has the decency to serve you up a little humidity with your bleak torrential downpour)—or further afield if I still had a little course related costs left to abuse.
One of the fun things about post-grad, however, is that you don’t get scheduled uni breaks. So, this winter I’m sticking it out with my fellow Wellingtonians in an act of [academically enforced] solidarity. I can already hear my southern friends rolling their eyes at my delicate sensibilities. But this article isn’t for you. This one’s for all of my fellow peers who, too, are prone to feeling down when the sunshine forsakes us, as well as all the freshers not yet climatised to grey, miserable and borderline-cyclonic.
1. Immerse yourself in a show set somewhere super tropical. Or failing that, set somewhere that looks fucking freezing. We may be down to single-digit temperatures but I take a little comfort knowing that I’m not having to fight giants and wildings in literal ice and snow.
2. Batch-complete your errands. Now is the time for optimised efficiency. No ducking out just for milk, you’ve got to make each campaign into the wilderness worth it. Heading out to load up on Scrumpies? You may as well stock up on toilet paper, buy more foundation, and post that letter to your grandma while you’re at it.
3. ‘Werk it’. Though not applicable to all cases, Harvard makes a really strong case that walking for 35 minutes, five times a week can help greatly in reducing systems of moderate depression for many people. Personally, I would rather put my face out with a campfire than add any semblance of cardio into my weekly routine but I’m totally on board with the concept. Keep in mind that foregoing the Uber home from town, getting down to Dakota’s shitty excuse for country music, and vacuuming the house will all get your heart rate up if you’re anywhere near as aerobically challenged as I am. Lots of dance studios, kickboxing gyms, and yoga studios also do free introductory sessions too if you’re after something a little different.
4. Plan a holiday. A study published in the Netherlands reported that just planning or the act of looking forward to a holiday can give you more happiness than the trip itself. This research probably appeals to me particularly as an intensely type-A personality, but if planning is your vibe too—treat yo’ self to a study break and spend some time on TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet. If you plan ahead, shop the pop-up sales, and stay at hostels, friend’s houses or house-sit you might be able to cobble together a trip away next winter that fits with your student budget.
5. Bring out the hot water bottle and familiarise yourself with the concept of hygge. Known by the Danish word ‘hygge’ or the Swedish word ‘lagom’, there’s a reason why Scandinavian countries get two mentions in this piece. Both terms loosely translate to mean cosy, and you best believe these nations know a thing or two about seasonally-induced depression, goddamn freezing temperatures, and well-funded research. Pour yourself some tea, break out the wheat-bag, put on some woolly socks, and do a little googling into the plethora of articles that exist to help you make your house ‘hygge’ on the cheap.
6. Call a flat meeting and start a ‘heating bill’ jar. In case you weren’t already getting a major “mum-advice”-type vibe from this piece, I’m here to remind you that while it might seem like a good idea to skimp on heating the house—you pay for it in the long run. Medical bills, unpaid sick leave, and increased comfort-eating can add up quick and really take a toll on your overall wellbeing. And don’t forget to get sassy with your landlord. I know it’s a sellers’ market out there with housing right now but ‘student gets chest infection from mould ridden house’ isn’t good for business and its worth reminding your property manager of that every once in a while.
7. Utilise places where someone else foots the heating bill. Whether it’s your great-aunt’s house, the local museum or the campus library, make use of the fact that cities are just full of free spaces that are kept toasty at someone else’s expense. It’s a great excuse to get out of the house, and a new environment will help reduce the temptation to mope that comes with extended periods of time at home.
8. Adopt cat-like behaviours. Take advantage of sunshine and daylight. Follow that shit around the house. Schedule your whole day’s activities around it. Seriously, just ask anyone from a Norse country—exposure to sun (or lack thereof) and mental wellbeing directly correlate and it is one hundred percent worth stopping what you’re doing or pleading with your manager for an extra smoko break, for a little time taking in some rays when they do appear.
9. If you were already thinking it was time for a counselling session, now is the time to book it. Game of Throne references aside, winter really isn’t great for those of us prone to bouts (or more ongoing cases) of anxiety and depression. This time of year calls for extra self-care, extra accountability and extra self-awareness. Massey has great student health facilities and if you’ve been noticing a trend towards more down days than up ones be sure to do yourself a favour and hit those services up.