Kim Kemmer
The Navigator

School is once again back in session, and as you trade your afternoons in the sun for early mornings in cold classrooms and late nights cooped up in front of the computer screen, it might start to feel as though sunlight is a luxury afforded only to those south of the equator. With the lack of sunlight, you might find yourself feeling irritable and incurably drowsy despite your best coffee-consumption efforts. Add stress along with the inevitable common cold, and you’ll soon have a recipe for the Winter Blues.

But don’t let the Winter Blues get you down. There’s a lot a busy student can do to keep spirits high and energy boosted during these gloomy days, on and off campus, for relatively cheap.

1. Take vitamin D.

Vitamin D is obtained from exposure to the sun and is also found in dietary sources such as fish, eggs, and fortified milk products. This might sound some alarm in the residents of Nanaimo, who in the dark winter months without sun are at risk for vitamin D deficiencies, which can result in weakened bones and seasonal depression.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient required to maintain overall health, and Canadians are reported as having notoriously low vitamin D levels due to dark winters and the culture of long work hours indoors. In a study conducted by Stats Canada between 2007 and 2009, it was revealed that one in ten Canadians do not have enough vitamin D in their systems to support proper bone health.

Low vitamin D levels are also associated with depression, and supplements are often recommended to alleviate depression symptoms. Vitamin D supplements can be purchased at any drugstore and are generally inexpensive. Be sure to consult your doctor if you are unsure if supplements are right for you.

2. Get active.

Between classes, homework, and part-time jobs, it can feel as though there’s no time for anything active, especially in the winter when the rain drives us inside to the comfort of our couches. Although sometimes getting to the gym can seem impossible and draining, exercise is one of the best things you can do to fight the Winter Blues.

VIU offers a plethora of fitness, yoga, martial arts, and dance classes designed to get you moving­—and the best part: they’re half the price you’d pay at any local gym. If classes aren’t your thing, there are sports leagues and various tournaments to join. Want to try something totally new? VIU Campus Rec has many weekend day trip activities planned, such as skiing at Mount Washington, caving at Horne Lake, paintball, rock climbing, and even a VIU Amazing Race event—all offered at very low prices just for students.

Be sure to check out; for links to Campus Rec events and activities, and information on where to sign up. And if circuit training, weight lifting, and kettle bells are more your thing, VIU’s gym has everything you need to get your blood pumping, and as a student, you get free access to it all.

3. Do yoga.

Embracing the undeniable comfort and freedom of yoga pants is one thing, but nothing feels better than a rejuvenating yoga session after a long day of sitting in class or as a way to start the day. If you’ve never tried yoga before, it can seem a bit daunting. What is a downwards dog anyway? What’s the point in all this wobbly weirdness?

Check out one of the many yoga classes offered by Campus Rec—taught by some friendly, knowledgeable yogis—and find out just what yoga is all about. Also be sure to check out, a comprehensive, Vancouver-based yoga video website featuring countless free classes, from beginner to expert, in the various styles of yoga. Yoga is a physical challenge, excellent for developing and toning muscles, and is also a great relaxation technique, designed to help relieve stress and focus the mind and body on living in the moment.

4. Have dinner at the VIU cafeteria.

Okay, so no matter how active or healthy you are, everyone needs to treat themselves once in a while. After an intense week of school work, studying, and everything in-between, I usually like to treat myself to dinner at the cafeteria. The university’s Culinary Arts students run the food services, which means a variety of unique dishes you wouldn’t normally try or could never afford to order are available at fast food prices.

If you’re a foodie like me who has been drooling for years over the creations seen in far-off fancy restaurants on the Food Network, then check out the dinners at the cafeteria. New dishes are offered every night, and they can range from simple comfort food, like chicken cutlets with mashed potatoes, to decadent creations more likely found on the plates of a five-star restaurant. Dinner is served Mondays to Fridays from 4:30-6:30pm in the upper cafeteria. And if you’re more into pub grub, the Student Union Pub has the best sweet potato fries in town.