Taking a Winter Break

Rejuvenating before the new semester is the point of winter break, so take advantage of these tips to ensure you’re refreshed and ready.

By Michelle Criqui, James Madison University


The holidays can be a very stressful time of year, and despite winter break being designed specifically to give you a break from the stressors of college life, it’s often filled with plenty of its own pressures: suddenly being surrounded by family members who hound you about what you’re planning on doing with your life (and why you don’t have a significant other), returning to your job at home and dealing with strange co-workers, making sure you have enough gifts for everyone — the list goes on.

The transition from life on campus back to life at home during the holidays isn’t always all sugar cookies and tree-trimming. Sometimes, it can be just as stressful going straight from finals week into all the pressure that comes along with the holiday season. But you have to remember that winter break is intended to be a refresher from school, and that it’s incredibly important that you take the time to actually take a break, unwind and feel refreshed before taking that zero-160 mph leap back into the spring semester.

1. Take Time for Yourself

As wonderful as it can be to spend time with family during break, what you don’t want is for it to turn into a “Christmas Vacation” scenario in which you have a full-blown meltdown, and then wind up guzzling eggnog in the corner while Grandma lectures you on your posture.

How to Unwind Before Starting the Spring Semester

Christmas Vacation (Image via Athena Film)

No matter how much you love them, being constantly surrounded by people can be draining, so it’s vital to ensure that you’re able to slip off at some point and make some time for yourself.

If that means locking yourself in your room for a while, then so be it. Get out that book that you’ve been meaning to read, catch up on your favorite streaming show or just take a nap. If you’re away at a relative’s, excuse yourself for an hour or two to go get your nails done or watch a movie. It isn’t at all selfish to have some time alone to recharge your batteries, especially after an extremely taxing finals week and end to the fall semester.

2. Do Something You Enjoy

At school, it can be tough to find the time to do the things that you actually love to do, in between essays, studying, planning for social events and habitually procrastinating on the internet. Maybe you have a stack of books you’d love to dive into, but haven’t had the time with all your class readings you’ve had to complete. Or maybe you were born to travel, but haven’t had the money or the spare weekend to get out of the university bubble.

In any case, breaks from school are fantastic opportunities to make your own decisions about what you want to do, and then do them. You might want to try picking up a new hobby you’ve been interested in, such as oil painting, yoga or hitting targets at the shooting range. Use this precious time away from college commitments to get things checked off of your personal wish list and get back to the things you love doing. It’ll leave you feeling more refreshed, and even help to give you some valuable perspective on what you might like to do in life.

3. Carpe Diem!

If the weather outside is frightful where you live, it might be difficult to motivate yourself to get outside during the final days of your winter break. But there’s just something about being out in nature, breathing in the fresh air and taking in the scenery around you that reawakens the senses and puts you much more in the moment.

Check out the hiking trails in your area and make a day of it with some friends, or just simply go for a walk through your own neighborhood. Try to be as present as possible, paying close attention to your five senses and letting go of whatever else has been clouding your mind.

Breathe in deeply for a few seconds, hold it and then slowly let it go. You’ll start to feel some of the weight you’ve been carrying slip off your shoulders, and you’ll return home in a much more rejuvenated state.

4. Catch up on your Zzz…

The all-night study sessions and full weeks in which you’re running on nothing but coffee and a prayer are no joke. College is the ultimate juggling act, and with class assignments, social obligations, organizational activities and so much more piled up on top of one another, it can be difficult just to find the time to get some much-needed rest.

How to Unwind Before Starting the Spring Semester

Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (Image via College Candy)

That’s why returning home for the break and not having to set an alarm is the most beautiful feeling in the world. Take full advantage of this time and make sure you get your full eight hours of sleep — or maybe even a bit more, if your schedule allows it. Allow yourself to remember what it feels like not to drag through the day with drooping eyelids, hands twitching from three cups of coffee and barely enough energy to raise your hand in class.

Not getting enough sleep can be a serious detriment to your health, limiting your cognitive function, putting stress on your relationships and even negatively impacting your memory (which obviously does not fare well when taking those important exams).

So go ahead, let yourself sleep in or take a long nap in the afternoon. As long as it isn’t done to excess and disrupt whatever schedule you have at home, catching up on your sleep during break is crucial to kick off the new semester on the right foot.

5. Get That Body Moving

While it might be tempting to simply lay around in your PJs and mooch off your mother’s cooking all day long, even laziness can be draining when done in excess. So get up, put on the new workout pants you got during the holidays and get moving for 30 minutes. It’ll make you feel much more productive, boost your mood and energy levels, burn off the calories from those homemade sugar cookies and ensure that you’re ready to take on whatever the day throws at you.

Getting in the habit of exercising regularly during winter break will also give you a serious advantage once you return to school. If you put in the time now, you’ll find yourself eager rather than reluctant to hit up the gym before class, and you’ll be ready to head into the spring semester with confidence.