After the stress of finals is over, many students are excited to return home for winter break. It can be a special time for family, friends, and a familiar place. Unfortunately, going home can present its own challenges.
Whether it is adjusting to living at home again or not having anything to do, winter break—a time to recuperate after the past semester— can sometimes feel more overwhelming than school. Here are some common issues and ways to address them to help you make the most of your break.
Strapped for cash?
College is known as a time when many are low on money. If you want to fill your time and save up while you are doing it, winter break is a great opportunity. Many retailers offer seasonal employment to help with the holiday rush. You could also reach out to former employers or workplaces to see if there are any shifts available: they likely have lots of requests for time off at this time of year. Another option is babysitting—many people need sitters while they shop or visit friends or family. Any of these can be a way to spend your time and can put you in a better position for the upcoming semester.
Too much time?
After being pulled in so many directions at school, it can be hard to adjust to having so much free time. This can bring boredom, frustration, or a worsening of symptoms for those with mental health disorders. While it is important to take time to relax, making a plan or list of things you would like to do over break is a good way to fill up your schedule. You could make plans to see friends you have been away from or take time to visit relatives. If you enjoy reading, you may have only had time to read books for your classes. Break can be a great time to read any books that interest you. Volunteering for causes important to you is an option that allows you to feel good and to add experience you may be able to call on later. Whether you prefer to be at the gym, painting, or watching movies, winter break is an opportunity to fill your time with things that make you feel good.
You can plan ahead by thinking about what questions or conflicts typically come up and how you might respond (or not respond) to them. You can make a list of coping skills that work for you including texting an understanding friend, breathing exercises, or going for a walk. Finally, make sure to reward yourself. If you feel something is going to be challenging, plan to do something you enjoy or find relaxing afterwards. This way you can have something to look forward to and a way to deal with any leftover stress.
Worried about your mental health?
Many people experience a worsening of symptoms around this time of year for a variety of reasons. If you are in treatment, you can work with your provider on how to best support you. If you are not in treatment or think you may be experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder, break allows you time to focus on how you’re feeling, what you might need, and how to make a plan moving forward. Mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, are real, common and treatable. And recovery is possible. If you are having trouble sleeping, experiencing racing thoughts, or just want additional information, take one of MHA’s screenings and check out our resources on a variety of mental health issues.