How to beat those January blues

Student Life

Hilary is widely accepted to be the least pleasant term of the Oxford year. Lacking the sunshine, warmth and Blitz of Trinity; the naïve optimism and impressionable freshers of Michaelmas, it’s little surprise that students would be at risk of the so-called “January blues”. We’re all too familiar with Fifth Week blues, and Hilary blues deserve the same publicity. But we don’t only mean to engage in sensationalist scaremongering — give these tried and tested tips a go, and the blues will melt away. Or, if you feel that these tips are in fact frivolous and irresponsible, feel free to ignore them entirely.

Firstly, throw those New Year’s resolutions out of the window. They’ve never caused anything but false hope, guilt and discontent. Are you really going to start that diet when half of your meals at the moment consist of whatever’s non-crunchy enough to be surreptitiously consumed in the library over a tute sheet? And how likely is it that you’ll suddenly become that conscientious, clever student you always wanted to be, when you didn’t bother to glance at a single book on your reading list over the vac, when you had absolutely nothing else to do for five weeks? Some people are just lazier than others, and there’s very little we could or should do about it, other than make the most of the leisure time our slothful disposition imposes upon us. So if you absolutely must make a new year’s resolution, just make an action plan for how to have as much fun as possible during term time. After all, it’s all about making achievable resolutions.

In these bleak months we have to find comfort wherever possible. Comfort eating, for example, is a long-respected tradition for the quick and effective lifting of the spirits. Not always sensible, I know, but you can never fail to alleviate the guilt that comes with eating 15 biscuits in one sitting by counteracting it with culinary pride and a sense of achievement — make some cookies or chocolate cake yourself. If you don’t have an oven, befriend someone who does or tarry around accommodation quarters you know has an oven, wait for someone to go in or out and sneak in stealthily with a bowl of cake mix. If that doesn’t work out, just make those chocolate cornflake or rice crispy things you made when you were little: it’s easy, but somehow you still benefit from the sense of achievement that comes with proper cooking, and on top of that you enjoy a nostalgic high. If your concern is that you’ll do that thing where you eat so much you have to lie down and stay still so you don’t throw up a little in your mouth, invite some friends to bake or eat with you. That would create a physical limit as to how much cake you can actually consume, but you won’t really care either because friends are great.

You could also indulge in the great institution on which our Western capitalist culture is founded: retail therapy. Just leave aside enough money for essentials like food, alcohol, and Babylove entry, and nothing could go wrong. Of course, it is possible that you wouldn’t have much money left over after food, alcohol and Babylove entry, so focus instead on amassing some little under-£5 treats. You could build an impressive collection of nail polishes (in pretty bright cheerful colours only!), of slashed-price CDs in HMV, and of new exciting types of tea (but never lapsang souchong, because tea should never taste of bacon). But wise people have been telling us for millennia that happiness cannot be achieved through material means alone, and far be it from me to contradict millennia of wise people. True contentment comes from appreciating what you do have, for example, instead of buying more CDs, try rediscovering your present music collection by playing your whole iPod on shuffle, warts and all, or you could even volunteer with those less fortunate than you, so you can truly see how much you really have. Or just buy some lovely new woolly socks — it’s difficult to be grumpy when your feet are nice and toasty.

But if your feet are warm and your belly is full, and you’re still feeling a little blue, why don’t you try talking about it? By this, I mean complain, a lot, to anyone who’ll listen. “A problem shared is a problem halved” — it is known. So try sharing some of that grouchiness. Personally, I like to go to hall for dinner, sit there for about two hours, and detail precisely how many hours I’ve spent in the library that day to any unsuspecting fellow student who unknowingly strays into my vicinity. I might also recite my horribly long essay title, or repeatedly tell them just how much I wish I had time for a good long lie-in. Unfortunately, and predictably, you might find that you irritate and alienate people in this manner. To overcome this problem, I suggest choosing your victims carefully — specifically, someone who is also prone to egocentric tirades. A likeminded victim would allow you not only to vent, but to also engage in a very satisfying passive-aggressive war of words, in which each participant attempts to subtly demonstrate that their own day was the more stressful one, and thus to demonstrate their own superior strength of mind, composure, and ability to overcome adversity. Just don’t engage in this verbal sparring with a chemist, because they’ll probably win. But if you’re a lover rather than a fighter, you could try to find a dancing partner instead. Turn down the lights and put on some music — the cheesier the better — and dance along ridiculously, that’s bound to cheer you up. For the especially athletic I recommend a dance-along to Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”: because taking yourself less seriously is almost always a good thing.

PHOTO/Peregrin Photos