I’ve lived in the Northwest for six years now, going on seven. I tend to think of myself as a pretty happy, motivated person, but in the winter I notice I need some more self-care. Other transplants/Northwesterners might agree. It gets light late, gets dark early, its bitter cold, and usually in the first few months I am pressing myself to meet some New Year’s Goal: this year I have to exercise more, I have to read for pleasure more often, I have to stop using the word armadillo. Then all I can think of is armadillos and how I’m not exercising, reading for pleasure, or what have you.
Now that I’m in Graduate School, life is of course legitimately stressful. There is reading to do, papers to write, connections to make, SUSDA things to address (Internship Fair, this blog, preview days, elections,) and of course personal life (when was the last time I ate? slept? did laundry? talked to someone who wasn’t in the program? went on a date?). So now providing self-care is harder. I am hearing much the same from fellow first years. “This quarter feels different.” “I am always busy.” “Don’t have time for happy hour.” “UGH.”
Having reconnoitered with students who’ve been through the quarter system in undergrad, they agree winter quarter is the hardest. So, this is the time when we need to come together the most. Some of best support we have Grad School stress is support from the folks who are going through the same thing. If you’re part of the peer mentorship program, maybe reach out to your mentor/mentee. Or talk with a good friend in the program. Or maybe take a morning off to just go for a stroll when it’s daylight and not think about life for a while. Whatever you need, but make sure it gets done.
Some folks may want to read up about Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). Plain and simple, it’s seasonal depression, and it occurs more often in Northern Latitudes like Seattle than down south. It can be easily treated with a special kind of light bulb you can buy at Safeway.
I say all of this because I know for me that despite the stress, I largely enjoyed grad school last quarter. This quarter I am distinctly not having fun. In winter’s dark, I’ve lost sight of goals I cherished just weeks before. But I believe spring’s thaw will bring my work to flower, so I’m using the blog for a little reflection and self-care. Hope you don’t mind.