Mental Health & the Extended College Holiday

The holidays can be an emotionally charged experience for many people. However, for college students and staff, there is an added layer of difference because we take such an extended break from our normal routine. While most people take a few days to a week from their day-to-day routine during the holidays, colleges often close for a month or more.

This extended break seems like it should be a welcome experience, and in many ways it is. However, it can also add some unexpected challenges to managing our self-care, mental health, etc. If you are part of a college break experience, as faculty, staff, or student, here are some considerations to pursue holistic wellness during that time.

Tips for Mental Health & the Holidays for the College Experience

  1. Intentionally Plan Your Break. Just a few blog posts ago we gave some ideas for being intentional about planning for those long breaks from school. These included pausing to think before rushing off-campus, considering your needs, asking for help, and being mindful that breaks are temporary. To read fully about these link here to the previous article.
  1. Recognize the Difference. It is a different experience to be out of your normal routine for weeks rather than a few days. It places you in a position to plan for a longer than normal change of routine which is often at odds with the majority of those around you. Consider how you want to spend that extended time given your parents, spouse, friends, etc. may not have the ability to take that time with you.
  1. Consider it as a Season. Taking a few days away from our usual routine doesn’t take as much intentionality. But, when you are away on break from school, you may be managing 1/12 of the entire year. That’s a lot! It can be helpful to consider it as its own season with its own aims for self-care, goals, etc. There’s a lot that can get done in 4-5 weeks AND there’s a lot of rest that can happen as well. Consider which of these priorities (or a combination) you want to aim for during that time.
  1. Embrace It. While we want to avoid toxic positivity with this statement, many would love a break from their usual routine for such a long time during the holidays. Rather than focusing on what is hard, consider the unique ways these long breaks can benefit you in terms of rest, work/making money, travel, internships, goals, or time to be present with those you care about. Take care to “fill your bucket” with as many of those experiences that are most satisfying to you.
  1. Consider Your Transition Back. Lastly, one of the unique challenges of a long break is it can be hard to go back. While some people are excited to return to school, friends, and routine, for others it is difficult. Be mindful of how people experience this, and plan for ways to make a smooth transition back into the school routine. Beginning of the semester to-do lists, planned dates to reconnect with friends, returning a day or two early, and/or having your books and supplies ready to go before you leave for a break can make the return easier.

There are so many expectations around the holidays, some that others place on us and many we place on ourselves. The lengthy break from college can make this complicated because it is an experience unique to most other people’s holidays. However, if we can recognize the difference, do our best to embrace it, and find ways to enhance how satisfying that time is, hopefully, your holiday (and transition back!) can be a more mentally and emotionally healthy experience this year!

December 16, 2021. By Anne Rulo, Author, Speaker, Therapist. FB/IG/Twitter @annemrulo

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