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Support and Wellbeing

Dark Nights getting you down? Don't despair!

Since the clocks went back an hour on the last Sunday in October, our evenings are becoming a lot darker, a lot earlier. And while winter brings the fun, festive season, it can also result in a case of the serious winter blues. Check out Beth's tips

Lanyon in the evening

These winter blues can also be known by the medical name of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This feeling of gloominess is caused by an individual's sensitivity to changes in light. With the amount of daylight available to us dwindling, levels of melatonin and serotonin can be knocked out of sync. The NHS notes the following things to look out for:

  • A persistent low mood
  • A loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of despair, guilt, and worthlessness
  • Feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
  • Sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased sex drive

It’s important that if you’re feeling particularly depressed during this time, it is a good idea to reach out for help. Either make a trip to your GP or check out some of the counselling services available to Queen’s University students.

If you notice that the short dark days are getting you down, there are several steps you can take to feel better.

Try to spend more time outdoors

Spending more time outdoors during the day can allow your body to soak up as much sunlight as possible. Take a walk around the Queen’s campus between your classes, or ramble into town on your lunch break. Exposing yourself to as much sunlight as possible during the day can help to regulate your body’s melatonin.

Botanic Gardens is right next to campus, why not take a walk around at lunch or after class?

Botanic gardens

Maximise the light that you have

Make the most of any light available to you! If you find you are spending a lot of time studying or working on assignments at a desk in your room, consider orienting the desk to face the window.

Alternatively, a light therapy lamp can also be helpful. These lights mimic the sun and can be timed to imitate the sunrise. This light therapy can cause a chemical change in the brain to produce less melatonin and more serotonin to help improve your mood.

desk lamp

Practice more self-care

Taking time out from your day to check in with yourself is really important when you are feeling low. Self-care can take many different forms, but find something that feels good for you and is something that helps you to relax. That could be anything from exercise, to reading or even practising mindfulness.

Woman doing yoga

Try not to oversleep

Avoiding oversleeping, as difficult as it can be on a dreary winter's morning, can be really beneficial in helping to deal with the winter blues. Try to start your day with something you will enjoy, maybe make plans to meet your friends for a morning coffee, plan a nice breakfast or make commitments to attend a workout class.

Alarm clock on a yellow background

Speak with your doctor or a counsellor

There are a range of supports available to help if you are struggling this time of the year. Queen’s University provides a range of support for students, including counselling and the TalkCampus app, or make a trip to your GP to discuss how you are feeling.

Find out more


Counselling Support

Making friends and getting out in the evening can help. Why not join one of the many Clubs and Societies at Queen's?

Beth Molloy

Geopolitics| Postgraduate Student | Dublin, Ireland

Hello! My name is Beth, and I am a master's student at Queen's studying Geopolitics. I moved to Belfast from Dublin and am enjoying uncovering the amazing experiences and opportunities both Queen’s and the city of Belfast have to offer. I hope to be able to share some useful tips and tricks to navigating Belfast life as a student with you!

Beth Molloy