Winter break is just over two weeks away. Yes, one of those weeks is finals, but then comes a month of “you” time. Winter break is a weight off your shoulders.
I am someone that gets easily overwhelmed by choices. Knowing I have a month of little to no structure was originally stress-inducing. But as I have reflected on my winter break plans, I have realized the key to a successful winter break is to keep it simple. Setting realistically attainable standards for yourself will give you a break that is both productive and relaxing.
I recommend setting a single goal. I know only one goal doesn’t seem like a lot, but this is meant to be a slightly larger goal. Not something to consume you, but something to keep you motivated. If you stop everything over winter break, coming back to campus will be a startling change and it will make it harder to get back on track for the spring.
My goal over break is to work and save money. Back in Minnesota, I work at a coffee shop. I intend to work as close to 30 hours a week as possible. I’ve worked that amount before, so I know it isn’t too much for me.
If you don’t have a job back home or working would be too much for you, you could begin searching for internships or scholarships. This would keep you on track not only for next semester but possibly summer and fall as well. Alternatively, your goal could be a new exercise plan. Even if you don’t have a local gym, bodyweight exercises require little to no equipment and can be easily completed in your bedroom. Getting into a new routine now will make it easier to follow as you get busier. Exercise can do wonders for your mental health, boosting your positive hormones ahead of — and even during — another three and a half months of school.
Because your one goal for winter break shouldn’t be all-consuming, you will have plenty of free time left to spend. Use some of that time to get all those little things done that you didn’t have time for during the semester. I mean those fleeting thoughts you had of “I should do this…” before getting distracted by something of greater importance.
Make a new Spotify playlist for that band you discovered in September that you love but are always stuck listening to their artist radio. Update the photo wall in your dorm room with the new memories you made over the last few months. Reorganize the panicked mess you left at home for your future self to deal with when you moved out. Unfortunately, you’re now the future self. Use your break to catch up on all the little things, so you can worry about the bigger ones when classes begin again.
With the time you have left, spend an appropriate amount of time with yourself, your friends and your family. Spending time with your family can reduce stress and improve mental health. Your happiness and physical health both improve when you spend time with friends. The benefits of social interaction are well-documented.
I say an appropriate amount of time because what is appropriate is determined by you. If your family does little more than cause chaos, spend that time with friends. If you need more time for self-care and reflection, take it. Whatever is the right balance for you, divide your time as such.
I want to add that these are recommendations not requirements. If you’re motivated and ambitious, go for it. Who am I to tell you that you can’t do it all over break? You know yourself better than anyone, meaning you should know your own limits. If you want to do more, good for you. But be careful not to do too much. That undercuts the entire purpose of a break.
On the flip side, some people need more relaxation time. This semester may have completely wiped you out, and all you want to do is binge watch whatever Netflix tells you to put on. I get that too. You know you, so do what you need to do. However, make sure you’re still prepared for spring semester, even if that simply means looking over your syllabus and packing your backpack the week before you return to campus. You don’t want to force a hard reset upon your return.
I can’t wait for winter break. I get to see my crazy large extended family for the first time in almost two years. My best friends — who, for some reason, decided to go to school in North Dakota — will be back in town for some sort of shenanigans. And, unlike a lot of people, I love my job. I get free coffee, scones and cookies while jamming out to my own music and serving the awesome people in my community. I’m itching to get back to it.
So for this break, do yourself a favor and keep it simple. I cannot emphasize it enough. Don’t overthink it, don’t overdo it. Find a healthy balance of ease and effort that works for you. I don’t recommend dropping everything and becoming a full on couch potato, but feel free to at least steal your spot on the living room couch back from those pesky siblings.
Megan Buffington is a freshman journalism major. Reach her at email@example.com.