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The spring semester slump and how to beat it

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The “second semester slump” plagues college students across the country as they enter the spring semester.

After the joy of the holidays is over, the dread of going back to classes often sets in. Many students feel overwhelmed and as if this new semester is insurmountable. If you are feeling this way, you are not alone. In fact, there are many reasons why the spring semester feels — and is — more difficult than the fall semester.

The first has to do with the season. During January and February, some people may experience what the American Psychiatric Association calls SAD, seasonal affective disorder. SAD occurs because of a chemical imbalance in the brain sparked by the lack of sunlight and the shift in daylight hours.

One of the most common symptoms is fatigue, which can be linked to the disruption in circadian rhythm that comes with the change of seasons. Similar to depression, other symptoms include loss of interest in usual activities, changes in appetite and difficulty concentrating.

But fear not; SAD is treatable. Try spending time outside in the sun whenever possible or doing work near a window. Eating healthy and regularly exercising can also help boost mood and increase general well-being.

Another reason the spring semester can be more difficult than the fall is because there is less time off in between and fewer breaks throughout the semester.

While students come into the fall semester after a few months of restful summer break, there are only a few weeks off between the fall and spring semesters.

And on top of that, there is only one break during the spring semester. The fall semester includes fall break and Thanksgiving break and concludes with winter break, giving students plenty of time to rest and catch up during the semester. In fact, this lack of breaks is a major driving factor in the heightened stress students feel during the spring semester and why so many students experience burnout before the summer.

During one of the worst times of the year for mental health, lack of adequate time off leads to a decline in mental health for many students, a “slump.”

In order to combat these feelings, there are a variety of stress-relieving tips students can practice to manage anxieties during the semester.

One is time management. This doesn’t just mean keeping track of assignments and due dates. It also involves making sure you rest and have enough time for yourself. While it may seem tempting to fill every moment of your schedule, it takes a toll.

Try to step back and prioritize the most important work and the things that are best for your mental health this spring.

Another way to help keep stress in check is to find an outlet for it. Unfortunately, stress during the semester is nearly inevitable, so finding a way to release it is crucial. Whether it be hitting the gym, trying a new recipe or listening to music, try to find a way to relieve stress that works for you.

Finally, try setting smaller, attainable goals for yourself throughout the semester. If you try to do everything on your list at once, you will fall short and find yourself frustrated.

Take things in steps; for example, when trying to write a paper, set a small goal like writing a paragraph a day. Breaking down tasks into smaller pieces makes them more digestible and also helps prevent procrastination.

If the semester slump ever feels too overwhelming, do not hesitate to reach out to the Clemson Counseling and Psychological Services program. Their phone number is 864-656-2451.

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Mercedes Dubberly, Associate Editor
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