First semester is officially on the books. Can you feel the sense of relief? The school break isn’t just about eating too much food, raiding cookie tins and pretending mulled wine tastes good—the holidays are about renewal, comfort and reconnecting with family, friends…and yourself.
For those of you going home for the holidays, it can be a bit of a shock: old routines, relationships and roles feel different. You have to report in if you’re out late. Apparently, cold pizza and a warm sports drink is not an acceptable breakfast. If you are prowling around the house at night, somebody is hollering down the stairs, asking if everything's OK. High school friends are totally the same, but, also, completely different.
But take advantage of this time: it's a nice respite from the day-to-day grind, and from the pressure of studying, writing exams, getting decent grades and balancing fun and a part-time job on top of it all. It's a great opportunity to evaluate where you are now, understand how you've changed, but also recognize how some parts of your personality are unshakeable. Tap into that part of yourself – it will sustain you during the challenging times.
If a literal 'journey back home' isn't part of your holiday plans and you are staying on campus – take a symbolic journey back home. Without regular classes and studying, you, too, have a chance to step out of your routine, evaluate and reconnect with the parts of yourself that may have taken a back seat during the fall semester. Join a meet up group that explores the city or town you now call home. Volunteer at a food bank or a non-profit organization that provides you with a connection to your culture. Take advantage on-campus activities and meals that have been organized for the holidays. Read something that isn’t course material. Organize a potluck with other students who are staying on campus, with each person bringing their favourite childhood meal.
There are a lot of ways to reconnect and check in with yourself. Here are some ideas:
- Meditate: If you haven't done this before, set a timer for 15 minutes, sit in a chair or cross-legged on a cushion and focus on your breathing. That's it. If racing thoughts enter your mind, gently let them go and return to following your breath. For meditation tips, check out the Lazy Yogi, a 25-year old pre-med student in NYC who swears by the stuff.
- Journal: Write it down. When you first wake up, do three pages of free writing. It doesn't have to be pretty, logical or grammatically correct. It's strictly putting words and thoughts onto the page. And yes: use paper and a pen. (Morning Pages are the foundation of the Artist’s Way movement, which is all about uncovering your creativity.)
- Exercise: A lot of us get into the zone when we play sports, work out, run or dance and sing by ourselves (with a makeshift mic preferably – my favourite is a hairbrush). It doesn’t have to be yoga and tai chi, I find Shaun T and the Bar Brothers inspiring (Go to your local park. Freak out some soccer moms.)
The idea behind all of these 'reconnections' is to lose yourself. Not mindlessly. Not downing shots. But mindfully and clear-headedly. These quiet times will give you the energy, focus and balance you need when your life amps up for second semester.