Ohio University

Tips for coping through Winter Break

A message to students from Counseling and Psychological Services: 

You have reached the finish line – completing finals!  Your hard work and lack of sleep is now being rewarded with an extended winter break.  For some, this period of time can evoke warm images related to the holiday season – time with family and friends and/or an abundance of food.  For others, this period of time may be darker, bringing up feelings of loneliness, stress, and relationship difficulties.  Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you navigate winter break:

  1. Acknowledge unrealistic expectations – Striving for the PERFECT break can be more stressful.  Try to let go of unrealistic fantasies. Instead, think about your hopes and expectations for the winter break and be flexible with any change in plans.
  2. Acknowledge and express feelings – Allow yourself to express what you are truly feeling.  Common feelings can be sadness or a sense of loss due to divorce, deaths and separations.  You don’t have to force yourself to be happy.  Find healthy ways to express those feelings.
  3. Prepare for differences – Time with family may not always be welcome.  If you can, try to reduce time spent with difficult family members.  If that presents a challenge, try to accept family members and friends where they are. Be aware that family problems don’t always disappear. It can be easy to set yourself up for disappointment by comparing the present with the “good old days.”
  4. You can say no – A common misperception is disappointing others if you say no to certain activities. You can avoid feelings of resentfulness or stress if you say yes to activities you really want to do. 
  5. Don’t abandon healthy habits – Often, holidays are used as an excuse to over-indulge, which can increase stress and guilt. Consider a moderation approach and take in exercise too. Create time to relax and enjoy self-care activities when you have the opportunity.
  6. Get involved – Getting involved in activities such as volunteering can create positive emotions and can provide balance to visiting time with family.