Photo: Emma Kimmerly

Student survival guide: beating the winter blues

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By Emma Kimmerly

As February approaches, some of us begin to question why we choose to live in Canada. It’s freezing outside, and day after cloudy day you carry on.

Either you can’t afford a warm Canada Goose jacket, or it was stolen from you at the library. Commuting to class is more annoying than usual, and the ‘winter blues’ sadness is creeping up to swallow you. But don’t worry, Ryerson is here to help you avoid hibernation.

From one-on-one counselling to cuddling puppies, free support groups are available for students year round.

“I’m most sad in the winter,” first-year civil engineering student Cindy Truong says. “It’s so cold and snowy, I’m always trapped indoors.”

Truong is in her second year at Ryerson, but switched programs last year after speaking with one of her department’s counsellors. “I went once, got to vent, and felt free after,” she says.

Career and educational advice is just part of what Ryerson’s Centre for Student Development and Counselling (CSDC) offers. Located in the POD, students can call and book an appointment with a counsellor for any anxiety, stress, or worry they have.

“The benefit of coming in to see a counsellor is that it’s confidential,” FCAD counsellor Bronwyn Dickson says. “Students can come and talk to someone about anything they have on their mind. …They’re not alone, and they can have someone who’s there to help them through the process.”

Another form of support for students has four legs, slobbers, and is fluffy all over. A CSDC outreach program headed by Dickson brings five or six therapy dogs to campus every Monday between 12:00 P.M and 1:00 P.M. in Pitman Hall. Dickson says these cuddle sessions attract approximately 70-100 students every week. “It’s a fun, relaxing, non-threatening environment.”

Other sources of support at Ryerson come from peer groups such as Students Against Drunk Decisions, Be Well, Mad Student Society, and Students for Mental Awareness, Support, & Health. These groups all have specific goals, but generally work towards supporting students through advocacy and information.

Even with multiple support systems, it can be hard for students to get themselves to campus in the blustery season. “If it’s snowy the subway doesn’t go well, walking to class doesn’t even go well,” Dara Akerewusi, a first-year undeclared science student, says. “There’s a lack of light, and there’s not much to do if you don’t like the cold.”

But as tempting as staying home and hiding from the world may be, Dickson warns that staying in can lead to greater risk of mental health issues. “It’s that much more effort to get up, go out, and put on ten layers,” she says.

“Sometimes students just want to stay home, but then that can create a whole other vicious cycle,” she says. “You miss class because it’s cold outside and then you stress about missing your class, and it can really snowball.”

Dickson suggests four ways that you can avoid the blues and not start that cycle:

1. Socialize, socialize, socialize. Instead of crawling into bed as soon as possible, spend some time with friends and family to help bring up your mood.

2. Find something to look forward to throughout the semester. Yes, something other than Netflix can pass your time.

3. Get some light. It gets dark earlier than usual but make an effort to get some fresh air and sunlight whenever possible.

4. Exercise to combat stress.

With these tips and maybe some dog cuddles, there are ways to lighten your mood throughout the winter season.

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