By: Nikki Rossetter | Counselor-in-Training | University Counseling Center
As a college student, the holidays can feel like a derailment. The holiday spending, the crowds, diet hindering parties; those awkward family gatherings during which Aunt Mary causes a drunken scene; the most wonderful time of the year, right? Whether you are from Wyoming or a land far away, traveling home as a college student for a long winter breaks can feel like you are undergoing a challenge. For some of us, going home can mean stress, regressing to the age of 15, and general uncertainty about how to balance our sense of self around the people that we love. If you’re fortunate enough to not experience any stress over the holiday breaks, stop reading this immediately. But for the college students that could potentially experience feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed, I have some tips that may help the process of managing your winter break effectively.
- Get some sunshine. Everyone needs vitamin D and a serotonin boost, just don’t forget your sunscreen! During winter months it’s so easy to stay inside and burrow into the dim lights, sipping hot chocolate by a fire but make it a priority to get outside for twenty minutes a day to boost your overall mood.
- Get yourself a plan. Whatever it is that stresses you out around the holidays – it is manageable. Schedule your priorities to reduce the risk of forgetting something or frantically thinking about your tasks and priorities. Type out your agenda, put it down in your phone notes, or handwrite a list…the point is - make a general plan.
- It’s so easy to overeat during holiday breaks. Between the traditional comfort foods, inside board games, and extra cat naps it’s easy to pack on a few thousand extra calories. Just remember turkey makes you tired and grandma’s mashed potatoes are irresistible, so try to be aware of portions. If you overeat, have some self-compassion and think about a walk.
- We all hate hearing this but it’s a salient truth over holiday breaks. Stressful demands, too much food, and the lethargic nature of holidays – we need to make ourselves move. It doesn’t matter what you do but make yourself break a sweat.
- I’ve heard many people say they don’t need 8 hours of sleep, and that may be true for some. But we are talking about the holidays folks! This isn’t the normal day-to-day world. Get your 8 hours or at least something close to it. You may be expending more emotional and interpersonal energy than you’ve had to all year, especially if you’re introverted, so get the sleep that you need.
- Humor, get some. Laughing a lot reduces stress hormones, like cortisol, which helps your immune system function better. Overall, laughter truly is a medicine. If you have a funny friend or a favorite funny movie, make it a priority to laugh.
- Ditch the technology. We never really connect anymore. Cell phones are constantly buzzing or dinging and this interferes with genuine connections. Cell phones actually have the power to initiate a physiological stress response due to bursts of adrenaline. It’s exhausting and it contributes to our stress levels. Obviously, if you’ve recently met someone new and you’re excited to talk to them this isn’t realistic. However, think about making a pact with them to put your cell phones down for the same chunks of time so you can focus on connecting to those around you. This type of alliance will only bond you more!
- Get out of the house you’re in. If family is hard or doses are too large, cut back. Take a drive or head to a local coffee shop. If the people around you cause distress, take a breather. It’s okay to love people that irritate or annoy us. But, we take care of people by taking care of ourselves first.
- Keep some norms in your holiday schedule. Prioritize your regular work out hour, don’t neglect your hobby, and call the people you talk to regularly if they aren’t around you for the break.
- But not too much. Philanthropic work does wonders for the soul. It gives us the opportunity to impact the lives of others and connect to what it means to be a human. Check out a local soup kitchen or shelter and donate an hour to helping others. It will change your life!
Please reach out if you need help!
University Counseling Center | Hours of Operation: Monday - Friday
8:00 am - 5:00 pm | 341 Knight Hall | 1000 E. University Avenue
Laramie, WY 82071 | Phone: 307-766-2187 | TTY: 307-766-2187 Fax: 307-766-3412