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5 Ways to Help Your Student Beat the Winter Blues

5 Ways to Help Your Student Beat the Winter Blues
Between academics, socializing, and extracurricular activities, college can feel like a whirlwind for college freshmen. And while this time of year is often a welcome reprieve in many ways, some students may face a serious case of the winter blues.

The reasons can vary for each college freshman — colder, shorter days, missing home, adjusting to a tough course load, and struggling to find a solid friend group could all contribute to a case of the winter blues.

For some, the main factors contributing to their winter blues are lack of sleep and un-balanced diets. This combo causes serious fatigue, which can show up in many of the same ways as depression.

For others, winter blues can be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. SAD is a type of depression that arises during certain days of the year, oftentimes in winter. Your student might be experiencing the onset of SAD if you notice the following:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decrease in energy
  • Increased appetite for sweets and starches
  • Anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of interest in socializing

SAD is most common to those on Northeastern campuses, and affects around 5% to 13% of the student population.

As a parent, you can feel a bit helpless seeing your student so down, especially if they’re attending college away from their hometown. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can nudge them toward good health and a happier mindset!

Gift Them an Outdoor Adventure

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Exposure to daylight and the outdoors has been a mood booster for a long, long time. Fresh air and cool wind can help stimulate the senses and decrease fatigue, improving energy levels.

Getting outside and immersed in nature has plenty of other perks too:

  • Reduces anxiety
  • Increases attention span
  • Sparks creativity 
  • Improves connections to others

Exercise has also been shown to increase serotonin and endorphins (“happy chemicals”) and has been dubbed “nature’s antidepressant.” Throw in some physical activity with getting outside, and you have a winning blues-busting combo.

Depending not their location, gift your student ski/snowboarding trip, or some tickets to a fun outdoor event in their area.

If hitting the slopes isn’t their thing, consider some off-the-slope activities, like dogsledding, snow kiting, or even ice climbing.

Give Their Room a Facelift

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When it comes to mental health, surroundings make a huge difference. You can help boost your student’s environment by sending them a few thoughtful touches for their room or apartment.

Winter blues can make homework hard enough, let alone homemaking (even if it is just their half of a dorm room.)

Send them a care package to help make their living a little cozier to lift their spirits. You could include:


  • The sense of scent is a powerful one for the psyche. Scientists believe it may cause certain mood-boating receptors to be triggered.
  • For winter blues, try scents like rose, basil, lavender, jasmine or ylang-ylang.

A light therapy box

  • Light therapy boxes can help produce melanin and keep your student on a healthy sleep schedule.

Keep it bright

  • Get them a curtain that won’t block too much light. Buy them other cozy and fun decor items with pops of mood boosting colors, like yellow and green.

You’d be surprised the power a few simple adjustments can make!

Send Supplies for a Fun Movie Night

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Sometimes your student just needs to cozy up and have a good laugh.

In Danish culture, "getting cozy" is called hygge. They use hygge to embrace the cold, dark winters by cozying up.

Send your student a loving package complete with a comfy blanket, their favorite comedy, and some hot cocoa.

Why a comedy? Laughter can help your student’s mood many fantastic ways:

  • Increasing blood flow
  • A release of physical tension for almost :45 minutes post laugh
  • A decrease in stress hormones
  • An increase in immunity

Cozying up in the comfort of their room while’s cold and windy outside in and of itself is enough to warm the heart. Add in some laughter and snacks and your student’s evening suddenly got that much brighter.

Encourage Them to Spend Time with Friends

If you notice your college student isolating themselves, it might be time to encourage they spend time with friends.

Encourage them to reconnect with old friends, and maybe even meet a few new ones. Spending time with friends can help your student experience some solidarity during the ups and downs of college.

Introverted or not, everyone is wired to rely on a supportive community in some way. In doing so, your student can reap a handful of positive effects, including improved confidence and an overall better quality of life.

If your student mentions making new friendships, be sure to encourage those relationships!

Talk to Them

Family support is crucial during life’s lows, and so is clear communication between you and your student.

While chit chat can be nice, sometimes the most helpful way to help your student who’s been feeling down is to listen to what’s bothering them, even if they’re having a hard time pinpointing it.

Let your student know you’ve noticed that they seem to be struggling, and open the floor for them to share as much or as little as they’d like.

What’s important is they know they’re heard, seen, and supported — even if you can’t always be there by their side.

Seeing your child down in the dumps isn't fun, but the solutions can be!

Help Them Get Help

If you don’t notice improvement in your student’s mood, you may want to encourage them to get professional help.

There are many trained counselors and therapists who are well equipped to help college students with depression, anxiety and life changes in general.

They can also call their choice of a helpful hotline, where professionals can help your student put out any fires as well as connect them to help for their long-term mental health goals.

Keep in mind that at some point, your student may need a break from the hustle and bustle of college to prioritize their wellness. Be prepared for them to take a semester off with this guide »