New Beginnings, the Blues, and Coffee: Surviving Winter Quarter

By January 22, 2015Writing about Writing

Winter Quarter at DePaul began with a record-shattering bitter cold, and heading to class after a cancellation on Monday, I felt as though I have faced the wrath of Chiberia, but I was about to tackle an even more monstrous beast: Winter Quarter, itself.

As I’ve learned from talking with my friends and fellow students, Winter Quarter can often be the most difficult for DePaul students. The depressing weather—with the cold, the snow, and the perpetual darkness, combined with the fact that Winter Quarter signals neither the beginning or the end of a school year can leave students burnt out, unmotivated, and downright sleepy.

But with a whole new set of classes, expectations, and our GPAs on the line, Winter Quarter is no time for slacking, as much as we may want to sleep in and miss that 8 am class for a few extra hours in the warmth of our beds. No, it is time to find motivation, get inspiration, and tackle Winter Quarter’s fury and workload one day at a time.

I, too, have fallen victim to the winter blues this quarter. But with papers to write and books to read,  I realize that there is no escaping it. Therefore, I have begun to search for solutions, which have led me to discover the secret weapons for coming out of Winter Quarter victorious:

  1. Coffee is your friend. Or any warm beverage, for that matter. Coffee is magical. It has the power to inspire, the power to rejuvenate, and is my secret weapon when writing papers, staying alert in class, and fighting the cold. When the weather is cold, and classes start early, having a warm, caffeinated beverage can be the perfect way to stay awake and ready to participate during class. The same goes when writing a paper or doing a reading at night. Having some delicious coffee or hot tea has the power to make conducting research or working on a creative writing assignment just a little more fun (this is sadly, not a guarantee), and it can help you stay awake even if you may feel like drifting off to sleep. That being said…
  2. Nap time should be embraced, but proceed with caution. A good nap can be incredibly rejuvenating, especially in the winter. Sometimes a “Power Half Hour” can be just enough to jump-start your body, making you physically and mentally ready to take on new tasks. For me, napping is an essential tool for combating the dreaded writers’ block. It is a way of stepping away from the subject and clearing the mind, and after a nap, I find that I am able to address the topic with a whole new perspective. However, nap time should be delegated only when necessary. Sleeping too much during the winter season is actually a sign of the winter blues, and can lead to a form of seasonal depression. Using an alarm to limit your nap time, and making sure that the nap will not alter your normal sleep cycle is imperative when deciding whether or not to embrace the glories of a catnap on a cold winter day. At the same time…
  3. Be active. As important as it is to get an adequate amount of sleep, being active is necessary in avoiding the winter blues. Going to the Ray and getting those endorphins going, no matter how much you may not want to walk there in the cold, will really help you feel more productive. But this is not just limited to working out. Even being outside for just a little bit, even if it isn’t sunny outside, allows your body to absorb some much-needed vitamin D and brighten your mood. Finding an activity, whether it is a group fitness class, or walking to Sweet Mandy B’s can help rid winter of some of its awful monotony. Too much fun, however, can lead to stress concerning schoolwork, therefore…
  4. Time management is the key to success. Being able to delegate your work from one day to the next, creating achievable goals and making sure it fits your social schedule is a simple way to balance your academic life and social life, especially in winter. It is often said that in college, students can either have two of the following: sleep, a social life, or strong academics. By general standards, it is impossible to have all three. But with proper time management, attaining all of these is not as elusive as it may seem. Being realistic about how long it is going to take you to conduct that research or read a book can help in divvying up the workload. Although it may take some time to schedule your work to fit in with your social calendar and nap time needs, it is completely possible to maintain all three of these factors, and in doing so, avoid the winter blues.

I’m as guilty as anyone of falling into the clutches of Chicago Winters, but I’m fighting to avoid being a victim. Staying motivated to write that next big paper or reading some Shakespeare does not have to be difficult, it just takes a little extra effort, enthusiasm, and of course, a big cup of coffee.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Maggie C. says:

    I thought you chose a great topic for this blog post. Winter quarter is, by far, the hardest quarter to be motivated. Why do anything when it’s slushy and/or freezing outside? The four points you raised were good incentives to actually do something. Personally, I get motivated by making some tea–it starts my day–and staying active. However, whenever I find myself working too hard, leaving my mind numb, I watch a little bit of Netflix. A quick TV show is another decent remedy!

  • Andrew D. says:

    I used to be get frustrated whenever I got drowsy because it cut my work efficiency in half, and I just had so much work to do. So, I’d try and fight off the heavy eyelids by pushing myself harder — reading closer, skipping snacks, that stuff. It took me a while to realize, though, that working “harder” was not necessarily working smarter. People need their rest, their leisure, their Netflix, and their fun scheduled in. I feel that we need to get away from these things, so that we can come back to our work with fresh eyes. That’s why I enjoy this post’s suggestions; this post captures the notion that moderation can play a key role in success and distress. : )

  • Rachel P. says:

    I love these tips! I find that winter quarter is definitely a hard one, for all the reasons you mention. It’s good to know that others are struggling, too, but that you have tricks to overcome the exhaustion and urge to hibernate! 🙂