Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder in college

When most think about the idyllic holiday scene, a Norman Rockwell picture might come to mind full of social-oriented traditions. Most movies, television shows, and other media portray Christmas as a holiday that can only be spent celebrating relationships.

This might explain why so many college students internalize a sense of anxiety about being distanced from friends or family around the holiday season. Still, millions of people spend their holidays by themselves and there’s nothing unusual about it.

Regardless if you are alone because of a recent break-up, death, or simply because you live far away from loved ones, enjoying yourself around the holidays begins with recognizing that some time to yourself is something to be embraced– not pitied.

“Find ways to appreciate time for yourself,” advises Dr. Aaron Brink, staff psychologist at the UNC Charlotte Counseling Center.

“The end of the semester and holiday season can be a hectic time for students, especially for students dealing with the end of a relationship at the same time. Having more time to oneself can feel lonely, but may also open up opportunities to engage in new activities or interests, connect with old friends, or simply make time to relax.”

Appreciating time apart from the frantic chaos associated with the Christmas season does not necessarily mean isolating yourself. In fact, it usually means the opposite. Leaving your home and going out to new and amusing places is a great way to revitalize yourself.

Explore your city or town and take a trip to a nearby landmark or landscape you’ve never seen or visit a local holiday festival. Documenting a trip through a diary, blog or photographs can be therapeutic.

If you prefer to stay home, however, it is important that you take advantage of your time alone and not simply lounging around. Time exploring a new creative talent or revisiting an old one is never time wasted.

Try a new hobby such as: guitar or piano, yoga, painting, or creative writing. Instead of ordering out, take a trip to the grocery store and try cooking up a healthy meal that you’ve never tried before; invite a friend over to share the meal.

While most are consumed with the capitalist routines associated of the Christmas season, volunteering can be a very fulfilling alternative to present-buying. Try volunteering a local soup kitchen or stopping by a Samaritan’s Purse location to fill up one or several Operation Christmas Child boxes.

It is critical that you avoid comparing your relationship status to others. Take a break from sites like Twitter and Facebook. It is easy to look at families and couples celebrating the holidays together and feel like that is the way it’s “supposed” to be.

But any one person’s conventional social standing is no better than another’s nonconventional situation. It is important to realize that you are not behind the curve and when the time is right for you to fulfill your aspirations of finding a partner or forming a family, it will happen.

Just because you might be geographically away from friends and family, does not necessarily mean you can’t stay connected with them. Sending a letter to loved ones is a great way to reach out for social succor.

“Whether by phone, text, email, webcam, or other means, there are so many ways that technology allows us to stay connected to those who care about us even when we are apart,” Dr. Bring suggests.

“The important part is to make the effort to reach out and initiate those conversations.”

Everyone can relate to the pressure involved in creating that perfect Christmas, which makes it all the easier to develop unrealistic expectations.

However, the great thing about being alone for the winter break is that you can set your own schedule.

And if that schedule involves taking care of yourself, while engaging in relaxing and enjoyable activities, you can undue the strains of fretfulness often brought on by being alone for the holidays.