Going Home From College During the 2020 Holidays? It May Be Like Nothing You’ve Ever Done Before

For some students, going home for the holidays is a positive experience. For others, life at home is a challenge. But, this year? There are likely some challenges facing you that are different from any you’ve ever known. Holiday traditions, the job you may have usually worked, the extended family you would usually see – it may all be different. And, because different can be challenging, it is going to be important that you take really good care of yourself.

As your holiday breaks begin in the coming weeks and, as you and your family make the decisions that are right for your circumstances, here are some tips that may help you get through this strange, extended break a little better.

Tips for College Students Managing Mental, Emotional and Physical Wellness During the 2020 Holidays

Stay Present. If you and/or your family have to experience the 2020 holidays differently this year, that can be uncomfortable. It can feel very threatening to do something different this time around, as though that will change things forever. If this is bothering you, remember, you are hopefully just making changes for now. Don’t let future worries trip up your present enjoyment. Try to enjoy whatever this year brings and then you can adjust things as needed next year.

Keep Perspective. This is not the first time people have had altered holidays. As we consider both World Wars, the Great Depression, or that one Christmas you may have had the flu, we all have to be flexible sometimes. Situational circumstances, both big and small, sometimes change our plans. People throughout history have managed to have meaningful holidays under less than ideal conditions. You can too. This will just be that year where you say, “Remember Christmas in 2020 when…” and make it a great story.

Look for Opportunities. Getting through unusual circumstances successfully often depends on our focus. If we zero in on what we don’t have (i.e. I don’t want to finish my classes online, I want to be back with my friends, I don’t get to work my job, etc.) then we are probably going to feel worse. If we focus on what we do have (i.e. I can get those projects/hobbies done I’ve always wanted to, I can relax more than usual this holiday, this is a time to connect with my family) then it can be seen as an opportunity. When things change we can either focus on what’s missing or we can look for opportunity. Operating from scarcity rarely brings joy. Operating from abundance does.

Grieve. As upbeat as these other tips may sound, we do want to acknowledge the losses of this year. For some, we have quite literally lost people we know and love to COVID or other illnesses. This may be our first holiday without a certain grandparent, parent or friend. For others, the choices we or our families make this holiday means we will miss out on moments and traditions we love. The people we love. The hugs we wanted. It’s okay to have tears of sadness and joy in the same day. Being able to grieve and celebrate at the same time is actually a very healthy practice.

Keep Your End Goals in Mind. These strange days of 2020 have forced us to be flexible. Even though you may have had to pursue your goals, classes, and plans differently, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on them. No matter what circumstances meet you when you go home for the holidays, make sure you write your goals down somewhere. Include your school goals, self-care goals, and relational goals. Make 2020 the year you ended strong, set up well for 2021 personally, professionally, and connected to others.

Okay college folks, here’s to the 2020 holiday season, whatever in the world that means. May you make it all that it can be, even in the strangeness. Remember to be open to the beauty that can come from the unexpected, control the controllable, and stay open to possibility. You can do this! May the end of 2020 somehow be the gift you never saw coming.

November 16, 2020. By Anne Rulo, Author, Speaker, Therapist. FB/IG/Twitter @annemrulo

Find more resources from Partners in Prevention, including a handout on ‘When the Holidays are Stressful: Taking Care of Yourself During Breaks’ on our website at

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