There’s something about coming back to your Midwest college after winter break. The sun is nowhere to be found, the cold is bitter and the beauty of the winter has faded. You bundle up to travel to your classes but even though it’s the beginning and it’s the easiest part of the semester, something about it is so… hard.
Iowa is no exception to this. I love school here, with all my heart, but waiting for the first day of sunshine for the semester is legitimately a full-time job. I don’t think I ever realized the impact the sunshine can have on your mental health until college, even though I’ve lived in the Midwest for most of my life.
Now, every site and social media post is going to tell you the same thing I am right now: Your mental health comes first. The only way to combat the things out of our control –like the weather— is to take care of your mental health first.
Here are some of my favorite things I do in Iowa City to take care of my mental health in the winter.
- Grab a warm coffee/tea/hot chocolate.
There is no shortage of great cafes in Iowa City. Whether you’re a Starbucks or Dunkin fan or find a new coffee shop each week, you will not run out of good shops downtown. I myself haven’t tried all of them yet, but you can never go wrong with a warm (or cold) drink to add to your studies, chill time, etc. Some of my favorites around town are Java House, Day Drink, and La Tea!
- A comfy night in never hurt anybody.
Grab your favorite pajamas, take a nice warm shower, and do all of your favorite self-care. Turn on a favorite movie and put that homework away for a while. Relaxing and taking care of yourself and your environment is a great way to take a break from your studies and also pick yourself up out of the late winter blues!
To some people, this idea is silly. But humans work through problems better when writing or talking out loud! So when you do feel down, Grab out a journal or notebook and write! It doesn’t hurt to just write down whatever comes to mind about whatever, and in the end, you may leave feeling refreshed and lighter.
- Make time for fun.
Studies are important. I get that. College is too expensive to never do homework and study for upcoming midterms, but it is so necessary to set aside time to do things you want to do and not just things you have to or should do. Even one weekend day free of having to worry about your course load or job if you have one is so beneficial to mental health.
- Add Friends!
Friends make everything better! You can do almost all of the activities listed above with another person or group of friends and you should when you can! Obviously, it can be difficult to navigate schedules to make time sometimes, however, spending time with friends is key to getting through the bleak winters on campus.