Mental Health Awareness Week and The Changing of the Seasons
Tuesday, November 4, 20140 Comments
It snowed this Friday. Yes, that’s right. This past Friday of Halloween, October 31- large white flakes of snow greeted the hordes of trick-or-treaters and University students alike who had ventured out into the night. For me, the early arrival of snow this year bought a flurry of excitement mixed with a shiver of dread that spread to the ends of my toes, reminding me that I indeed needed new boots this year. Although Winter brings a deep frozen beauty and stillness with it- it also means shorter days and less sunlight. The less sunlight part is the thing that gets me. I’m not the only one affected by this whole less sunlight thing; in fact it’s a proven scientific trend that the lack of Vitamin D causes and the amount of sunlight one receives can affect the body’s hormone levels and chemicals in the brain. The body produces a hormone called melatonin through the pineal gland- a hormone which directly assists one sleep cycle. During the daylight the body knows to not to produce melatonin due the increased activity humans typically engage in during the daylight. However, during the winter months when sunlight is scare the body and activity is somewhat limited, the body can overproduces melatonin. This overproduction then causes feelings of low-energy and sleepiness, and the general feeling of wanting to snuggle deep into one’s bed forever and sleep until Spring.These feelings of low-energy and perpetual tiredness are not just the “winter blues”, but have been diagnosed as Seasonal Defective Disorder. As we march strongly into these winter months I find that now, more than ever it is important to take some time for reflection on what motivates and inspires us, in anticipation for the long winter months when we literally have to be our own source of sunshine. In the contained bubble of University, I find that it is all too easy to get caught up within the endless cycle of papers upon papers, tests and exams trying to balance social life with a work life with a school life and all the while remembering to stay healthy and don’t forget to call you mom! The daunting amount of money we pay in tuition fees for this cycle of stress is forever looming over our heads, pressing upon us with an acute sense of pressure and guilt; both urging us to succeed. While meandering on the internet, looking for snippets of thoughts to pocket with me for inspiration and comfort during the long winter months, I stumbled upon the essay “The Opposite of Loneliness”, by a recent Yale graduate Marine Keegan, which I thought perfectly packages the hope and frustration, anxiety and calmness, movement and static one experiences during their Undergraduate degree. The feelings of wanting to move fast, accomplish everything all at once- and then becoming frustrated once realization sets in that learning is not just an exam-season thing, not just a four-year thing, but a lifelong process of mistakes and victories. Here are Marina Keegan’s thoughts on the process; “Its not quite love and its not quite community; its just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people who are in this together... We’re so young. We’re so young. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lie alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out- that it is somehow too late. That the others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving…For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it. What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. We can’t, we MUST not lost this sense of possibility because in the end, its all we have.” As delve into the winter months, I would like to leave with a few sentiments in how I have personally managed to embrace the Canadian coldness and harbour a sense of hopefulness throughout the long months. It may not work for you, but at least you know that you are not in this by yourself- t 1. Exercise -Exercise increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain's response to stress. - Moksha Yoga Guelph offers’ community classes every Friday evening for only $5 or trying joing the campus gym which offers a membership for only $30/semester. - 2. Eat well and local - This is so important, especially in the winter months when our bodies are deprived of the nutrients that we receive from more exposure to the sun. 3. Surround yourself with people that make you feel positive - Remember to keep in contact with friends and family during the long winter months. They are your support system, and don’t be afaird to let them know how much they mean to you. 4. Relax, relax, relax! -Remember that this is only a small, teensy portion of your life compared to the remaining 60 or so years. Try not to generalize your entire existence on your University career- this too is a stepping stone in the process of becoming the individual that you are. 5. Try something new! -Whats that one thing that you’ve always envisioned yourself doing, but have never had the guts or put the effort in to make it happen? Don’t wait around! There is nothing as satisfying as completing something entirely for yourself, simply because you have a desire to. 6. Wake up extremely early and go to the nearest hill. Remember to bundle up warmly! From this hill, watch the sunrise and practice being grateful for all that you have in your life- even if it is not exactly as you would want it to be , and even if you are counting down the days till Spring. On November 10th, mental health week begins at the University. The campaign entitled “1 in 5” seeks to bring awareness and a sense of solidarity throughout our University Campus for those suffering from mental illness. As a University campus containing an overwhelming niche for 18-25 year olds it is our responsibility to demand more research, education and positive representation of mental illness. This is something that has affected everyone; from family members, spouses, friends or simply individuals in population culture. As a place of higher learning, we need to take significant steps in destroying the stigma that our culture holds against mental health, and create a more accessible and comfortable environment. A great way to begin this journey is to get involved in Mental Health Awareness Week starting November 10th, and instigating conversations within your community. This week will involve various open panel discussions, yoga classes, stress management workshops and a Varsity Hockey Game. For a full listing of the week’s events and projected goals, please visit the CSA”s website at uoguelph.collegiatelink.net/organization/wellness/events.