Opinion—Stay connected in this cold pandemic

staying+social

Sam Rush/NW

Katarina Rothhorn

It is the second week of classes and I can already feel the winter blues starting to sink in. Being a student is a normally stressful time for most people, but on top of classes, we are living through a pandemic where physical distancing and online everything is our new normal. Just to make things worse, the sky feels perpetually gray and the cold wind makes it tempting to stay indoors. 

For some people, the winter blues can go even farther to become Seasonal Affective Disorder which can make focusing on school work and personal relationships seem impossible.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year… symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.”

While I personally don’t have Seasonal Affective Disorder and all of the intense emotions that come with it, I definitely have experienced lower motivation, lower energy levels and some difficulty concentrating during the winter months. With more classes and events being held online due to the pandemic, I have also felt the strange effects of group Zoom connections where the intent of social interaction is there, but it often falls short. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think virtual gatherings are better than complete isolation, but when they end with the click of a button, they don’t always leave me with the same serotonin boost that being physically in the same space as others (six feet apart and masked, of course) does. 

Being outside is actually one of the best ways I have found to switch up my increasingly digitized schedule and is a safe space for me to meet up with friends I’m not able to bubble with. Based on the number of people I have also seen enjoying the trails, I don’t think I’m the only one. 

If you’re not familiar with snow-friendly trails or are looking for motivation to get outside, the Winter UP program is a way to meet new people and have help enjoying the outdoors. All of the activities offered are meant to be accessible to all students and they benefit both your physical and mental health. Not to mention if you log the activities you do through The Hub, you can earn prizes like a kayak, mountain bike and YETI-brand thermoses. You literally get prizes for going outside and taking care of yourself. To learn more about why you should absolutely take part in these outdoors and online activities, check out our article on the Winter UP program.

Going to outdoor events and spending time outside is especially important since we are not having a spring break. It can be easy to let yourself be dragged into monotonous days of work with week after week of classes, but make sure you are checking in with yourself and what you need. This is also a good time to check in with friends and family and make sure they are taking care of themselves as well.

But you don’t have to just take my word for it. Brenna Dill, a senior majoring in outdoor recreation leadership and management, gives great advice on how to survive the winter semester.

“I guess what I’ve found to help with the winter semester is going outside as much as possible, sticking with and checking in with your friends. Even if you don’t see them in person, talk to them and invite them for hikes,” Dill said. “If you invite somebody else, it holds you accountable so you have to go outside.”

If you need more motivation to get outside and spend time with friends and the fresh air, don’t forget that the Outdoor Recreation Center and the PEIF lets students rent camping and outdoor recreation gear for free. 

The Hub is also a good place to look for both virtual and in-person events to get you out of your dorm or apartment.
Make sure to take care of your own mental health and physical health this semester and always reach out to the counseling center if you need more assistance.