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3 Easy Ways College Students Can Handle Seasonal Affective Disorder

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A college student experiencing seasonal affective disorder

For many people, the year 2020 has been an emotionally taxing year. Anxiety about the pandemic, the climate, the economy, and politics are high for everyone, and with the month of November comes the newest addition: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). 

SAD is a form of depression that usually occurs around the same time every year. Its symptoms include lack of energy, moodiness, hopelessness, insomnia, and a loss of interest in things you usually enjoy.

For many college students SAD hits especially hard. If you go to school in a place with harsh winters you can begin to feel trapped as the snow slows everything down and the cold makes it hard to leave the house. If you live in a dorm or don’t have access to a car the monotony of grey skies and the same scenery can begin to feel inescapable. 

These are 3 tips on how to handle SAD as a college student during Covid-19:

#1: Natural light is key

Most college apartments are cramped. With school being online, students are spending more time than ever inside. This is why exposing yourself to natural light every day is so important in boosting your mood. Sunlight is good for mental health and can even increase your serotonin levels in your brain. Try to do your homework in front of a sunny window or keep your blinds open during the day.

Taking short walks during the day can also help. While it may be hard to get out the door in the cold, a short walk around the block can dramatically improve your mood, a lot of this is due to the light exposure. Put on a mask and walk with a friend or listen to some music to make it more enjoyable.

Some people have even invested in light therapy boxes. These are lamps that produce a similar light to the sun. Turning it on for a few minutes every morning has been proven to produce similar effects to soaking in the real thing. A great alternative for the days in the winter when it feels like you haven’t seen the sun in years. 

A man with a backpack and blue jacket walking next to a building with snow on the ground.

#2: Do some exercise or light movement 

This one is pretty self-explanatory for people who experience regular depression year-round. Moving your body is great for mental health. If you’re in college this can be tricky. Gyms are likely not open and you probably don’t have the resources or space for a home gym. 

Any type of movement can help you battle SAD. Taking a walk, stretching, or doing a short weight lifting or aerobic workout is one of the best ways to restore some of the energy that SAD has drained from you. Youtube has a bunch of great short workout videos. It can be hard to get up and do it, but once you’re done you will not regret it.

#3 Reach out to people

Many college students with SAD report feeling like an entirely different person from the Summer versions of themselves. The first step is recognizing that there is a seasonal pattern in your mood.

SAD affects 1%-2% of the entire population. Chances are someone you know feels the same. Especially in the midwest, northeast or northwest. It is a normal part of life. When it starts to happen it easily can feel like you’re putting your life on hold for a few months. That doesn’t have to be the case. 

Reaching out to a friend or family member can help soothe some of the anxiety prompted by SAD. Recognizing you will probably start to feel down soon can feel empowering. When it begins to happen during the Fall season, you can recognize it and be more prepared in the future. 

If symptoms feel out of control or the helplessness is getting to be too much, seek medical help. Therapy and medication are ways doctors can help you. If you are not at that point and just need someone to talk to, reaching out to another person can help you feel less alone. 

A landscape with the sun glaring down.

Remember, this feeling is never permanent. 

These are some pretty basic tips but it’s always nice to have reminders. It is important to start monitoring how you feel as winter approaches and the effects of SAD become more apparent.

Stay safe, stay healthy.

College Life

The State of College Football in 2020

Ian Wentzlaff

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Football player carrying the ball and running towards the end zone as the other team hustles to catch up to him

This college football season feels different than any that have come before. Perhaps it is the fact that teams in various conferences experienced a staggered start to the season. Another explanation is that the typically packed stadiums are half-empty, with fans being socially distanced inside. Certainly, the black cloud of COVID-19 looms over college football.

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out earlier this year, fans and players begrudgingly relinquished their sports seasons. Several professional leagues, including the NBA and NHL, successfully crowned a champion, finishing their seasons off in a fashion that satisfied even the most die-hard fans.

However, doubt still lingered as to whether football season would kick off as normal. Other sports were able to successfully finish their seasons, but football would attempt to start and finish a season without batting an eye. Another wrench in the works: college teams would still need to travel in order to play against each other. The NBA, NHL, and MLB were able to significantly mitigate the risk to players and coaches by moving all teams to one or two “bubble” locations where they could isolate from the virus.

The decision to hold a 2020 college football season was met with mixed reviews inside and around the NCAA, the governing agency of college athletics. Certain conferences opted to sit out the entire season, citing that the revenue simply did not justify the health risk to everyone involved. However, after several weeks of sitting out, some of those conferences decided to take part in the season anyway.

A football laid down so the grips are facing up, a white stripe on both ends of the ball
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This indecisiveness caused many schools to play an odd number of games. Currently, the NCAA is 5 weeks into the season. Certain teams, such as the Alabama Crimson Tide, have played in all 5 weeks. Others have only played one game so far, and others still are determined to place the health and safety of their universities over the opportunity to make money. 

An argument has been made that the risk the virus poses to young people is minuscule, and the economic opportunities provided by NCAA football is sorely needed now. However, consider the fact that young people can still die from this virus. In fact, unlike the NBA, which did not record a single positive test throughout the bubble, college football players have already lost their lives to the virus.

Adding to the concern, universities across the country are reporting new COVID-19 cases every day. Many of the nation’s top football programs have cases numbering in the thousands on their home campuses. Still, the NCAA is willing to gamble on the lives of young people.

This is certainly not a new development for the NCAA, which uses an unpaid labor force of student athletes to generate massive revenue every year. Additionally, some programs made it clear that if their players opted out of this season, they were off the team. Subsequently, many players decided to return to the field, more afraid of losing their scholarship and education than of contracting the virus.

Now, as the 2020 college football season approaches its halfway point, many still wonder if it will reach its intended conclusion. The impact of the virus has of course been felt on the playing field. Teams have been forced to resort to backups more often as their starters have fallen ill; one game even had to be cancelled when Vanderbilt could not field a healthy team of the 53 players required by conference regulations. 

Zoomed out, aerial shot of the Rose Bowl Stadium
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Across the programs of the county, dozens of players and coaches have caught the virus. Even the sports’ biggest icons have not been immune. Nick Saban, the head coach and architect of Alabama’s recent dynasty, tested positive just earlier this month. All of these players and coaches missing games has led to one of the most improbable starts to the season, where a major upset seems likely to happen every week.

Still, what will it take for an improbable end to this season of college football? When will the NCAA admit it has made a grave mistake by risking the lives of so many people, especially when most are unpaid, poor college kids? The long road to winning a championship is paved with the hardships that have been overcome along the way, but perhaps now is the time to stop and rest, to recover before any more lives are unnecessarily lost for the sake of sports.

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College Life

Five Easy Ways to Reap the Benefits of Virtual College Tours

Abrar Shah

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Man in a suit giving a virtual college tour

Even with a ranging pandemic dictating the American way of life, little can stop the desires of up-and-coming college students to know more about their schools. This opens up one of the few possible alternatives: virtual college tours. Whether you are on a budget, don’t have the means to travel extensive distances, or simply do not want to travel in this climate, virtual tours may be the gateway to help you determine how to push through your higher education. 

  1. Snatch the opportunity to see what classroom and building interiors are like

Unlike middle school and high school tours, college tours do not offer visitors the liberty of seeing a class in action or even allow them to see a classroom at all. Virtual tours, however, allow you to see the inside of nearly any building you may be using on-campus, depending on how much coverage the particular school decided to allow for their virtual tours. For some people, this alone is a game-changer, so make sure you exercise this opportunity to the fullest.

  1. With classes now almost exclusively online at many schools, see if you can sit in on on

This is something you should check in on with school representatives if possible. Many campuses across the country are now using Zoom or other distance-learning methods, and it is very likely that you may be allowed to join one as a silent observer. Of course, this can only be discovered when you enquire about it, but many schools will be happy to allow prospective students a front-line look into their academics. I recall quite well that in the various incarnations of grade school, there would be prospective parents sitting in the classroom for some classes.

Since actual campus tours wouldn’t allow that, it should be much easier to do it virtually. 

  1. See if you can simulate a day at school

You will often understand a concept better through practice, so take advantage of simulating a day on campus and determine whether you can truly see yourself existing on the campus for however many years you intend to be there. Timing is everything and this can be a useful way to determine how much you will have to move around on any given day. 

  1. You can always decide to visit later if you feel that it’s worth it

Arguably the best advantage of virtual college tours is that you can do it within the comfort of your own home, while also being able to avoid the potentially lackluster in-person experience. Virtual tours will allow you to decide whether it’s worth the time and money to visit a certain school of your interest in-person to get the full authentic feel you may need to complete your decision. Additionally, virtual tours will also allow you to determine whether you will \need to keep a school in mind for the future; take advantage of the process of elimination whenever possible, especially if you are the kind of person that applies to many schools.

  1. Discover what matters to you (and ask all the questions)

The ability to see more means that you now have a reason to ask more questions than you would if you were actually on campus, since you would most likely be in a group and tours have strict timing and schedules. Do you need space to throw your javelins or do you derive satisfaction from simply watching basketball games?

You can approach your virtual tour as you see fit and you’ll very likely think of things you probably never would have ended up asking in person. When it comes to the college process, your genuine interest in a school does make a difference. However, you need to be very careful to not make your interest appear artificial, as people who spend their days handling college admissions will be quick to figure this out.

At the end of the day, you’re in charge of what you believe is best for you, and being prepared for what may lay ahead is only beneficial. Do not let something take more time than it needs to and swipe away opportunities now that you may not be able to get again later.

Perhaps it is the virtual tour that can justify your dream school or turn one that never was into one. Exercise your options effectively and you will reward yourself with the place you’re meant to be in going forward.

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College Life

5 Secrets to be Successful in Online Zoom Lectures

Mariah Olmstead

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A girl wearing blue jeans and a black sweater, sitting by a window attending a live zoom lecture
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Many colleges and universities around the United States have reopened for the new academic year, but several still operate online. Zoom is one of the more popular platforms these days for online classes and is preferred by professors as it is more user-friendly.

As most college students know by now, lectures are sometimes tedious in person, but they can be just as boring online.

Here are 5 tips to help students focus and be successful in online Zoom lectures. 

1) Have a cup of coffee, tea, or water 

Lectures can often be a snoozefest, especially when they’re early in the morning and you don’t have to go through the motions of dressing up and traveling to a physical class. Waking up with a refreshing cup of coffee, tea, or water can help you keep yourself awake during these lectures. However, take care that you do not drink too much, or you may find yourself running to the bathroom during class and missing important information! 

2) Use pen and paper

Even in-person lectures require some set of writing utensils to take those important notes and ensure you don’t miss out on any information. So why would it be any different online? While taking notes on a laptop can be quicker, most professors on Zoom calls want to see their students’ faces, and professors can notice when students aren’t paying attention, even online. 

A woman wearing a white shirt and black jacket sitting at a table on a laptop.
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3) Study in a quiet environment

Being able to focus during lectures is important, so making sure everything is quiet can make for an easier time during class. Of course, noise and distractions are hard to completely avoid, with everyone’s home lives being different, but try to have as quiet of an environment as you can. 

4) Prepare books and readings

Most professors will assign a reading assignment for the next class so that students can discuss it, or so the professor can elaborate on it more. Having the reading or book with you and ready for class is beneficial if the professor asks you a question regarding the book or reading, or if the professor breaks people up into groups to discuss the reading. Having the reading by your side is great for quick references and to show the class you know your stuff. 

A girl wearing a white shirt and watch, laying in her bed on a laptop.
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5) Use a comfy chair

Lectures are long, and sitting all day can strain your back. Having a chair that is properly adjusted and comfortable will help ensure that you aren’t squirming or moving a lot during class. It also helps reduce strain so you can focus better. While a good chair can be expensive, it helps in the long run with comfort, as well as avoiding RSI and injuries from prolonged sitting. 

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