Cornell under 60 degrees feels more like a battlefield than a college campus. It gets this way every year without fail, but the initial hints of winter are always jolting. As the daylight fades, so do motivation, energy and moods. For the average college student, these virtues are not especially high to begin with, so the impacts of a shift in seasons are profound. Thankfully, Cornell is generous with its winter break. In 46 days (but who’s counting?), I can retreat happily into the equally bleak climate that colors the skies at home, with little else to distract from the gloom outside.
With every bead of sweat I parted with over the past few months, I distinctly remember wishing for cold weather. That’s interesting, considering the hatred I now harbor for rain on a cold day. Those two make for a very powerful couple. Nothing quite matches the vigor of torrential downpour like subzero temperatures. In merely stepping foot outside, any semblance of polished appearance is ripped away within seconds, transforming even the worst of sheltered destinations into a haven. On days like these, I like to dedicate a moment to channeling concentrated irritation to all media that has ever romanticized the pouring rain (@TheNotebook). It is a huge disservice to real life, and more importantly, to my hair.
While dropping temperatures and painfully cumbersome apparel are the immediately apparent consequences, the change in seasons reverberates through multiple spheres of daily life. Simple routines like walking to class or having a meal are done through a newly frosted lens — minimal effort somehow feels magnificent. Some of us have to mine deeper and deeper to extract a will to be productive that, just months ago, seemed so easy to access.
Wardrobes also experience a shift in function, from adding style to providing warmth. The presence of Canada Geese and hand-me-downs in the same space on campus is a salient indicator of socioeconomic fragility, but it is often overlooked in the interest of peaceful coexistence. Sorel boots and non-Sorel boots tread the same ground, fighting for traction. Winter gear directly dictates one’s ability to maneuver through campus, hopefully preventing slips and falls. Indirectly, this setup serves as a reminder of the financial inequalities that strain relationships in subtle but nagging ways, and raises several questions about accessibility of basic resources to survive the Ithacan winter.
Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder typically enter the scene in the early fall months, and frequently, many students urge themselves to ignore real symptoms in favor of maintaining normalcy. Affecting approximately 10 million Americans, SAD in fact presents common symptoms like hypersomnia, feelings of hopelessness, fatigue and decreased energy levels, and it can seriously impede health and productivity if neglected. Traditional mood-boosters — exercising, socializing — are even harder to coordinate in the winter months, fueling the cycle of isolation and depression.
Having conceded the supremacy of the great, bone-chilling outdoors, all hope is not lost. There are ways to overcome the compelling embrace of a warm bed and the sharp sting of wintry temperatures. So much of functioning as a student, both academically and emotionally, depends on balancing biological and mental well-being with competing responsibilities, and it is imperative not to disregard the former. Material success is neither gratifying nor sustainable without emotional health to complement it. Solutions can be as straightforward as increasing the amount of light in a room or scheduling an appointment with a professional at Gannett. Regardless, I encourage you not to chalk substantial changes in mental health and routine off as moodiness or regular exhaustion, and to allow yourself to slowly and safely transition with the seasons.
Priya Kankanhalli ’19 is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Matters of Fact appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.