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Winter Break Mental Health Survival Tips

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Trying to de-stress after a whirlwind of classes and exams can be difficult, especially when it may involve challenges related to being home. During this pandemic, being with family and friends may be additionally problematic. Whether it is adjusting to living at home again or not having anything to do, winter break—a time to recuperate after the past term—can sometimes feel more overwhelming than school.

A return home has often meant, for some, an opportunity to make some extra cash. However, with the necessity for social distancing, and many part-time jobs being eliminated, you may be experiencing financial difficulties because you cannot take advantage of your usual sources of extra income.

Additionally, with the winter weather, you may feel down, listless, irritable, or experience vague physical complaints. These can be symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or what some may call “the winter blahs.” The bottom line is that even though you now have a lot of extra time on your hands, you may be feeling overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, and lonely. Here are some ideas to consider that may help you to manage and lessen some of the possible distress associated with your winter break.

Too Much Time?

While it is important to take time to relax, making a plan or list of things you would like to do over your break is a good way to maintain mental health and wellness. Feeling overwhelmed or sad can lead to falling into a depressed mood. When a person feels depressed, they become increasingly inactive and unable to cope with the stressors in your life, thus resulting in a vicious circle of stress-depression-stress. The best thing to combat a depressed mood is to intentionally do things that keeps you physically in motion. The mind-body connection of physical activity helps to increase endorphins, which, in turn, lifts your mood, helps you to feel more optimistic, and improves your ability to think more clearly. Activities do not have to be physically aerobic. What is important is that you have fun! You could make plans to see friends you have been away from or take time to visit relatives (safely). If you enjoy reading, you may have only had time to read books for your classes. Break can be a great time to read any books that interest you.

Whether you prefer exercising, playing sports, painting, or watching movies, winter break is an opportunity to fill your time with things that make you feel good.

Family Problems?

If you are in a home situation that where conflicts typically arise, create a plan as to how you might respond (or not respond) to them. You can make a list of coping skills that work for you, including texting an understanding friend, breathing exercises, or going for a walk. If you have to engage in a situation with family members that is going to be challenging, make “a date” with yourself in advance to do something afterwards that is enjoyable and relaxing. This way you can have something to look forward to and a way to deal with any leftover stress.

Increasing Mental Health Concerns

Many people experience a worsening of symptoms around this time of year for a variety of reasons. If you are in treatment, you can work with your provider on how to best support you. If you are not in treatment or think you may be experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder, this break may allow you time to focus on how you’re feeling, what you might need, and how to make a plan moving forward. Mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, are real, common, and treatable.

I am available to provide counseling to all Antioch students via phone, text, or video chat. I can be reached at or (913) 319-0070 or (513) 549-0512. You can reach me if you have any mental health questions or concerns, or if you need help connecting to a mental health professional where you live.

If you don’t feel ready for a one-on-one consultation, but just want a little more support, I created some short videos on managing feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression while away at home that are available on our Antioch College’s Counseling Services Reach Out page, as well as my 10-Minute Mindful Meditation.

Finally, there are additional tips and resources available for college students to help manage stresses associated with being back home during the Coronavirus outbreak through the Mental Health America website.

I wish each and every one of you a peaceful and enjoyable winter break.
~ Nzingha Dalila, Director of Counseling Services