How to beat the "seasonal slump"

Friday, November 10, 2023 How to beat the "seasonal slump"

A student practices Yoga in the Maxwell Arboretum on East Campus. October 15, 2020. [photo by Abby Durheim for University Communication]

Originally published November 11, 2022. Updated November 10, 2023.

Fall and winter months bring colder weather, darker mornings and earlier sunsets and for college students, these months also bring preparation for final exams, projects and impending deadlines as the fall semester ends. You might find yourself spending more time indoors to study, navigating new routines or increasing time alone to complete tasks, or find yourself experiencing changes in sleep habits or energy levels.

With these many changes, students can find themselves experiencing the “seasonal slump,” including increased sadness, loss of interest, social isolation, difficulty getting out of bed and other mental health concerns that can be exacerbated by weather and other college-related stressors.

Despite the many changes the end of semester can bring, there are many things you can do to help yourself. Below are some tips for implementing healthy habits to find balance in your well-being.

Maintain a consistent sleep schedule and focus on your daily routine.

When preparing for finals, you may be spending more late nights studying and mornings sleeping in, decreasing chances to be outside and enjoying the sunlight when available. It can be helpful to identify a morning routine that is enjoyable, making it easier to get out of bed and a routine that creates consistency. Find times to get exposure to sunlight, even if brief.


  • Identify something in the morning you look forward to. Is it giving yourself enough time to sit and enjoy your coffee before rushing off to class? Time for exercise or a self-care activity you enjoy? Whatever it is, make it consistent.
  • Find ways to take breaks to engage in self-care activities that promote happiness. Schedule in breaks from academic work to focus on self-care.

Give your body Vitamin D.

Maintaining or increasing a regular dietary intake of Vitamin D has been found to improve symptoms related to the seasonal depression.


  • Exposure to natural sunlight is the best way for your body to receive Vitamin D. As the weather permits, prioritize spending time outside each day to benefit your physical and mental health. Also, breathing in fresh outdoor air contributes to reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Eating a vitamin-rich diet will help your body maintain adequate Vitamin D levels. Whole eggs, mushrooms, fatty fish (ex. salmon; canned tuna and sardines), beef liver, and fortified foods like milk, yogurt, cereal, and orange juice are excellent sources of Vitamin D.
  • Dietary supplements can also help. Consult your physician about ways to maintain an optimal level of Vitamin D for your well-being.

Prioritize physical activity and social connection.

It can be common to want to stay indoors and focus on relaxing when it is cold and dark outside, but mental health can be negatively impacted by decreased exercise, movement and social connection. Find ways to increase exercise, connect with others and change your environment as needed.


  • Focus on moving your body at least once a day. This can be as quick as stretching your body before bed, taking a quick walk in the morning, establishing a more consistent exercise schedule at the gym or frequently playing a sport you enjoy.
  • Identify ways to increase social connection, even if brief. Plan phone calls with supportive people in your life and spend time with friends to study. When busy, it can be helpful to change your environment if you’re feeling “stuck.” Move your study session from home to the library where you’re surrounded by others.

Increase mental health check-ins.

Stress can be high during the end of the semester and it can be easy to become distracted in day-to-day tasks, so be sure to slow down to check in on your mental health.


  • Ask yourself how you are really feeling. Along with stress can come sadness, irritability, anxiousness and more. Be sure to slow down to ask yourself this so that you can adequately implement self-care and coping that is most helpful to improve your mental health. Instead of powering through a study session, you might need a few minutes to call a loved one, to listen to music that improves mood, use positive affirmations or problem-solve.
  • Assess what support you might need from family, friends and on-campus resources. There is strength in seeking support and you don’t have to cope alone. Think of what support you would benefit from and seek it out.

Remember, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is here to help.

It can be helpful to discuss your mental health concerns with someone neutral to explore ways to cope with stress and to care for your mental health. First appointments are available same-day and crisis services are available 24/7 by calling 402-472-7450 and following the prompts.

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