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The winter blues

The holiday season is usually filled with joy and laughter, but this may not be the case for everybody. While some students find relief in the winter break and the festive spirit, others struggle with loneliness and holidays-related stress. Sure, lights and decorations can boost your dopamine, but do not let that distract you from the array of demands that the holiday season comes with. From making your way through crowded stores and making sure you get thoughtful presents for all your loved ones to being dragged to family functions or feeling forced to entertain guests, stress and depression become the undesired gifts under the tree. Here are some tips to get through the holiday season.

Some people do not get a chance to go back home and spend the festivities with their families. Luckily, technology helps us feel a bit less homesick. You can easily videocall your parents, maybe cook a typical Christmas dish that reminds you of home and enjoy the latest family gossip that your siblings spill on FaceTime without having to deal with the in-person interactions (best of both worlds, am I right?). You may also find comfort in hanging out with your friends who also stayed in Amsterdam. Explore the city together, do that cliché activity you did not have time for during exam week and, if it’s too cold outside, a good old TV marathon may be exactly what you need. In fact, what some people appreciate most about the holidays is that they can finally be lazy without feeling guilty about it. In the end, it’s called a break for a reason.

If you do go home, you may experience different family dynamics after being away for some time. Maybe your parents are no longer invested in those traditions you have had since you were a kid or your younger sibling spends more time with their friends than they do with you. Even realizing that you are growing apart from your friends back home may trigger some gloomy feelings. To make things worse, that annoying relative may suffocate you with silly questions. While it is hard to set boundaries, it is usually the most efficient way to deal with this last situation. If you are expected to join a family gathering that you really do not want to attend, suggest other activities to your parents. You have only so much time you can spend with your family before going back to university, so compromise on how much time you are willing to stay at the family function and decide what quality time activity you can do together to keep everybody happy. Just because things have been done the same way for years, it does not mean you cannot embrace new traditions.

Finally, once you get the chance to relax, getting back to your studies seems challenging. New classes, new material, new assignments. Joining a study group is always an option, both for learning and social purposes. On the bright side, with the start of the new year, I am sure we all have many exciting events coming up. Having something to look forward to (a concert, a trip, summer plans, etc.) can be great motivation when feeling down. Overall, dealing with your emotions may be hard no matter what time of the year, so make good use of the holidays and enjoy a well-deserved break!

If at any point you feel overwhelmed by university or personal circumstances, UvA’s student psychologists are available to help with your mental health. You can sign up for group sessions and individual consultations. Find out more at: 

Article by Vanessa Toraldo

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