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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: How to navigate Cuffing Season when you're SAD

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We’re deep into sweater season, and the hot Med Deli guy has been missing all semester long. You know what that means ⁠— it’s crunch time to find a bae for the holidays. In other words, Cuffing Season is upon us.

There’s nothing more emotionally exhausting than explaining to your Great Aunt Carol why you’re still single. You used to be single because you were super deep in the closet; but now that that cat’s out of the bag, both you and Auntie Carol are frustrated by your lack of companionship.

Meanwhile, your Instagram feed is filled with cute couples ice skating and baking cookies and participating in a whole host of seasonally-appropriate, monogamous bullshit. It’s exhausting, you hate it and those picture-perfect couples just make you “want to vom.” But, at the same time, you can’t help but be a little bit jealous. 

We’ve offered different takes on Cuffing Season over the years, but we can’t ever seem to get our solution to this trend exactly right. 

When the temperatures drop, we want to snuggle. Our biology predisposes us to crave companionship during this time of the year. On the other hand, we want to believe that being single during the holidays isn’t all that bad. We hold fast to the belief that we don’t need another person to validate our worth. We want to wake up like Lizzo, and look up in the mirror like "Damn, she the one." 

What we rarely talk about in the context of Cuffing Season, however, is the very-real onset of seasonal affective disorder — aptly abbreviated to SAD. The depressive symptoms that accompany this disorder are often chalked up to be the final exam season slump, or getting a little too in your feels about being single. When the symptoms of SAD are conflated with the social pressure to have a significant other during the holidays, Cuffing Season can really get you down.

That said, we think that the conversation around Cuffing Season should be re-framed a little bit. Nobody should be seeking out a significant other just for the sake of doing so, nor should they be getting down on themselves for standing firmly in their singlehood. What we should concern ourselves with, instead, is how we care for our single selves and friends during times when SAD is on the rise.

Cuffed or single, here are some ways that you can take care of yourself during the cold winter months:

  1. Establish a support network for yourself that isn’t a significant other. This applies to folks who are cuffed, too. We can become isolated from support networks like friends and family when we’re single. But even if we are in a relationship, we can rely too heavily on our partners for emotional support. So, make sure you know who, aside from bae, you can call if you’re feeling down. 
  2. Take some time off from social media. It’s cliche, we know, but inundating yourself with images of folks in relationships, having a super fun time on their vacation or any number of manufactured images can really drain you. Take some time to step away from that, and try to enjoy yourself in a way that isn't dependent upon whether your followers would like it. 
  3. Be intentional about rebuilding relationships with your friends and family. We can become so enthralled by dating apps and Cuffing Season and the hunt for a partner that we forget to invest in the people who we already have in our corner. Ask a friend out to lunch to catch up. Take your mom on a coffee date. Have a cute movie night in with your siblings. Platonic and familial love can be just as cute during the holidays as the love that you share with a significant other. 
  4. Listen to Ariana Grande's "Christmas & Chill." Just trust us on this one.
  5. If any exes try to slide back in during the frenzy of Cuffing Season, see items 1-4.

At the end of the day, whether you buy into Cuffing Season or not, what’s most important is that you prioritize your mental health, foster relationships that you already have and focus on your own happiness during the SAD times. That special someone will come around eventually. And besides, being cuffed is expensive AF anyway.

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