Being a student is hard enough between meeting deadlines, studying, and keeping up with extracurricular activities—now factor in that fateful time between Thanksgiving and winter break. These few weeks become a breaking point for many students, and it’s easy to lose yourself in the midst of it all. Between the holiday festivities and crunching for finals, be sure to refer to these five tips to maintain your mental health this holiday season.
1. Set boundaries
This should be something you practice regardless of the season. Knowing when to shut down your computer, cut loose, or turn inward is a skill that is incredibly valuable to maintain good mental health. Remember that a little “me time” won’t break a meaningful relationship or indicate you’re not giving your all when it comes to your studies.
It may be difficult to practice this, but take it bit by bit. Personally, I utilize the “focus” feature on my devices a lot to let others know I’m unavailable. Simply set it to something like “busy reading” and everyone will know exactly what you are up to and hopefully leave you in peace. This is especially useful when it comes to class notifications; you don’t want your night ruined by teacher comments and updates to the grade book. Ultimately, you want to restrain the workaholic in you so you can be fully present in both your personal and school life.
2. Surround yourself with good people
A like-minded peer is always good company. They keep you on your feet when it comes to school, understand your goals, and push you to do better. By having like-minded friends, you’ll be surrounded with unconditional support and relief that you’re not alone in your feelings or struggles. This is especially important around the holidays when it comes down to simple planning and gift giving; you can always use a trusted second opinion. It’s always nice to have kind people to bounce things off knowing they have your best interests at heart.
3. Spend time in nature
It may sound cliché, but it works—numerous studies have found that a little bit of greenery or a snowy field is enough to decrease anxiety, reduce stress, and promote positivity. After all, it's the simple things that ground us, so why not turn outdoors? Similarly, cuddling up to your pets has the same effect on your mood, if not better. Their presence alone has been shown to increase oxytocin levels and dramatically reduce hormones that invoke anxiety.
4. Focus on what you can control
As we get closer to the holidays, things can seem a bit out of your control. Sold-out items, unrelenting tests, and erratic travel patterns can make it seem like time is moving on without you and you can’t catch a break. Looking at the big picture here is dizzying, so do what you can to be prepared for all outcomes. I especially stress this point for international and non-local students who have to book flights and essentially jump through hoops just to spend time with family. Always be proactive and account for the unprecedented. When the unexpected happens, don’t fret. Acknowledge the impediment and move on; you have already done what you prepared for.
5. Seek help when you need it
Being able to admit you’re not feeling well or can’t keep up with the demands of school is an incredibly valuable skill to hone. Sometimes you can’t just plow through life expecting things to be all chipper, as curve balls will be thrown your way. This applies to everything and everyone, and it's something students of all ages have a tough time grasping. Asking for help is not a sign of incompetence or emotional weakness; it is simply guidance and reassurance that you’re in need of.
Reaching out to a mental health counselor or voicing your struggles to a confidential hotline can immensely improve your well-being. You’ll find resources that you didn't even know existed that may be of service to you or someone you know. Voicing issues with others or writing them down can reduce some of the worries and stress you carry as well. If you find that you are in need in any way, never hesitate to reach out.
There you have it: five tips to maintain your mental health around the holidays. Please practice self-care and be kind to yourself and others year-round. Remember to use this holiday season to recharge and enjoy spending quality time with yourself and those you cherish!
We’re here for you if you need more support to get you through the long winter season. Start by learning more about Mental Health: What It Is and How You Can Find Help.