Winter break comes on the heels of stressful final exams and term papers. Researchers for the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute’s Children Journal found that “9–21% of students are at risk of developing burnout” within their first semester.
According to the journal, students need a healthy dose of resilience and coping skills to reduce school burnout. However, experts’ first and most crucial recommendation is to use this time to relax. “As a student, early morning hours can take their toll,” said Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor Jennifer Lytle. “This winter break, rest and recover by sleeping in for extra late mornings. Even if you wake up, commit to reading a good book or enjoying a hobby like crochet.” Slowing down during this time is vital for physical and mental health.
Enjoy the Family
Take advantage of the break to nurture interpersonal relationships. School demands may have strained friendships and family ties. Begin planning before the break to ensure those important connections don’t get overlooked in the holiday chaos.
Lytle suggests students take the initiative and reach out first. “Make time for those people who are important to you. Connect by texting, calling, and inviting people over for a casual get-together or outing. Movies are pretty simple, but food is [also] a great gatherer. Charcuterie boards are easy enough to throw together and typically can be stocked with on-hand pantry items.”
Get Out There
After unwinding, experts recommend students use the break to beef up their resumes. Gain real-world experience by putting in hours in a field of interest.
The founder of Real Estate Exam Ninja, Chris McGuire, urged students to pursue professional development. A real estate investor and licensed broker with twenty years of experience, he recommends students “enroll in online courses, attend workshops or webinars, or participate in virtual internships or job shadowing opportunities.”
McGuire states, “This proactive approach to professional development can give students a competitive edge and expand their career prospects.”
Volunteering during winter break is an excellent option for students looking to give back. The warm fuzzy feelings associated with helping others are rooted in science. According to the Mayo Clinic, volunteer work releases dopamine, resulting in positive feelings. This work also reduces stress. Less stress means a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and mental illness.
Jitendra Patil of ViTutors, a multi-subject tutoring platform, suggests searching for options close to home or campus. “Find volunteering opportunities in your town and choose the one that interests you. If you are not returning to your hometown and staying on campus, you can find volunteering opportunities around your campus.” Patil recommends DoSomething.org to find causes ranging from voter registration to climate change.
Free time is rare during the school year. Use this break to try things unrelated to academia and career. “Winter break is a chance to explore your interests and passions and learn something that is not related to your schoolwork,” said Raj Maliyala, the Manager at Texas International Academy. “You can take an online course, learn a new skill, read a book, or watch a documentary on a topic that fascinates you. Learning something new can stimulate your brain, boost your confidence, and expand your horizons.”
Winter break is the perfect time to travel. “You can take a trip to different cities in the US. For example, visiting New York can be a learning and life-changing experience. Dine, shop, visit Broadway shows, go to museums, ice skate, and do much more,” Patil said. On a budget? Patil suggests visiting cities where friends or relatives could provide lodging.
Beyond independent travel, students can apply for study-abroad excursions during the break. Ashlee Fechino of the Happiness Function recommends students check out their university’s programs. “When I was in college, I always took an international trip for winter break. They were either sponsored through the University’s outdoor program or as a biology class. I learned how to travel the world and got to see many incredible countries as a young adult before I was 21. It’s a safe and affordable way to travel.”
For schools without study-abroad programs, companies like CIS Abroad offer affordable international travel alternatives. Prices vary, and some programs offer scholarships to make educational trips accessible. These programs also allow students to meet peers from other institutions.
Breaks help mitigate burnout, but too much of a good thing can turn sour. Use the latter part of the break to get ahead on next semester’s materials. Review past tests and assignments to keep the information fresh. Prepare for upcoming classes by previewing syllabi and textbooks.
Maliyala offered tips for staying ahead. “Winter break is not only a time to relax and have fun but also a time to plan and prepare for the next semester,” the education expert said. “You can review your syllabus and the previous papers and identify the important and frequently asked topics. You can also make a realistic and detailed study plan and allocate enough time for each subject, topic, and concept.”
“This might be the perfect time to take a long-term view at your grades, your current resume, and future schools or programs,” suggested Lytle. “Consider what you might need to add (think Student Council) or ditch (maybe, the Ukulele Fanatics Club) to help you be accepted into your school or program of choice in the years to come.”
As the new semester approaches, take time to reevaluate the previous term. Look for ways to improve upon what went well. Develop strategies and new habits to fix what didn’t.
“A short break from routine is a nice time to implement something new that will feel more natural when your regular schedule kicks back in,” Licensed Clinical Social Worker Andrea Marano recommended. “This is a great time to start a new daily habit, whether it is movement, making your bed, writing in a journal, daily reading, walking your dog, or anything else that you want to do every day to feel your best.”
Lytle suggested students “refresh and reset” their school items. Sort through backpacks, desks, and bookshelves and restock any missing materials. Donate excess or unused items to support less fortunate students.
Winter break is right around the corner. Plan now to ensure a break prioritizing wellness, rest, and life goals. A battle plan, real-world experience, and a recharged battery will make returning to school much smoother next January.
This article was produced by TPR Teaching and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.