As important as it is to work hard and stay uber focused when class is in session, it’s equally important to disengage and unwind when you have time off. Now, none of this is rocket science, but in our experience even the most basic advice about how to decompress can be helpful when we’re coming out of an intense period of work, which is exactly where you’re at when you’re about to take your winter break. Let this post be one of the very first easy steps you take to cool down and enjoy time away from your studies. Is it a definitive guide with guaranteed step-by-step instructions for getting rid of stress and ensuring a relaxing time? Not necessarily. But if you find any tidbit in here that helps you enjoy your break, it will have been worth it.
When you’re heading into a long break after months of hard work, the easiest thing to tell yourself is that the first thing you’re going to do is sleep for a week. But in reality, what often happens when school’s out is that we immediately pivot to a lot of self- and family-imposed stress because of the holidays and other personal obligations we’d been neglecting while we got through the semester. In some cases, these types of obligations don’t feel as stressful, but they nonetheless can take a toll on your already-depleted energy and attention levels. So first thing’s first: Once school is out, take a few days to truly unwind. And throughout your break, make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep. Starting out your time off in the right way is key to ensuring you get the most out of the break.
This one might feel a little counterintuitive, but bear with us. For many, the second the break begins a clock starts ticking in the back of our head – “School will be back before we know it.” That ticking clock, even if it’s faint at first, can truly interfere with our ability to disconnect and decompress during our time off, so why not curb it ASAP? Choosing classes, figuring out your schedule, knocking out pre-work or independent assignments, getting books and other supplies – prepping for a new semester can be stressful, even if subtly so. If you get as much of that done as early as possible, you’ll give yourself immediate peace of mind that will allow you to fully, truly enjoy your time off without the burden of a lingering To Do list.
On the other side of the coin, as tempting as it is to lie down and not get back up until a few minutes before classes start again, many find that a balance of relaxation and staying active (in a fun way) during extended breaks is the best way to revitalize motivation and feel refreshed. A break from the daily grind is the perfect time to reestablish some healthy habits you may have had to drop during the busiest times. So go on a hike, hit the gym, do some yoga – whatever combination of activities you enjoy that keeps your blood pumping. Mental fatigue is a real thing, but being active and exercising is actually an excellent way to keep your brain sharp.
This one really is a no-brainer, but some people need to hear it. As we said above, it’s really easy to immediately get busy with life things when school is out, but through it all you must make sure you do some things just for you. That hobby that you had to put aside during finals? Make time to get as much of it in as possible. This is also an excellent time to pick up that new hobby you’ve been eyeing but felt too busy to try. The hardest part about a new hobby is usually the first few attempts, learning the basics. What better time to try something new than during an extensive break?
This is related to the previous advice, but it’s worth calling out specifically. So many people who love reading, writing, and learning for fun find themselves unable to do those things at the cadence they’d prefer when schoolwork, which consists of large volumes of all three of those things, takes over their world. A break from classes is an excellent time to remind yourself why you (at least used to) love reading, writing, and studying. This is especially true of reading for fun, which very commonly becomes a casualty in college where so much of the work you do has a reading component. Now is the perfect time to pick up a book that’s purely entertainment. Write a short story or some poetry that’s just for you. Study something superfluous you’ve always wondered about. The upshot of activities like this is that they’re always personally rewarding, relaxing, and fun, and they have the bonus of keeping your school-specific muscles active even while you’re decompressing away from school.