Prioritizing Self-Care During Winter Break

The Fall 2022 semester is slowly coming to a close, and many students and staff are eager to start a much-needed break. The excitement in the air also correlates to the holidays and celebrating with family and friends. While this time is important for creating new memories and indulging in holiday traditions, students should take this time to practice self-care and prepare for the Spring 2023 semester.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the mental wellness of students is declining. Sixty percent of college students meet the diagnostic criteria for a mental health condition, a percentage that keeps rising. Many experts urge any college student that feels they are falling behind or suffering to keep themselves in check and seek additional help and practice self-care.

Anna Huber, a senior English student, successfully improved her self-care by changing the way she treats herself. She said, “Over the past four years, learning to be kind to myself has been a huge step for me in improving my self-care. I found at times I would bully myself about bad grades or poor academic performance. I had to learn to be my own guardian, to think of myself as something precious. I would never want someone to talk to my best friend the way I was talking to myself. Giving myself permission to be flawed has greatly improved my mental health.”

Being kind to yourself and staying positive about yourself is a step in the right direction. Knowing your worth and trusting your own judgement makes a huge difference in academics and life. While winter break is often spent catching up with family and friends, it may not leave room for students to breathe and care for themselves.

Julian Rebelo, a senior chemistry student, said, “Around this time of year can be mentally draining, between family commitments during the holidays and final exam preparations…A technique that I have learned is to give yourself rest and advocate for yourself through self-care. I find that watching TV or reading has helped me tremendously. Finding that balance between rest and work will ultimately help you to be your best.”

Writing/journaling is another outlet students can turn to this winter break. Getting thoughts down on paper can help relieve feelings of stress and anxiety. If writing’s not your thing, drawing, painting, or creating something in general can be extremely therapeutic; you don’t need to be good at it, as long as it can provide good feelings.

Christopher McKittrick, PsyD, LPC, ACS, and Director of Counseling and Prevention Services (CPS), said, “While winter recess can seem like a lengthy break, it quickly fills with activities and commitments to family, jobs, friends, and other important areas of life. It is critical that students prioritize time for themselves and to use it to rest, refocus, and re-energize.”

An activity that can be relaxing is the Magic of Lights at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. This drive-through light show provides entertainment, but also a safe space to enjoy light displays in the comfort of your own car. This event started on Nov. 18 and will run until Jan. 6. It runs until 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m (11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday).

Another event is the Festival of Trees in Princeton, New Jersey at the Morven Museum and Garden. While a further drive from campus, spectators can enjoy the museum decorated by local organizations, which opens at 10:00 a.m. and closes at 4:00 p.m. Because this is a walk around event, people can enjoy the scenery and take in the holiday decorations.

For those who celebrate Hanukkah, Princeton also offers an annual Menorah Lighting at the Nassau Inn at Palmer Square. Taking place on Dec. 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., this event can bring joy to those who do not celebrate Christmas.

Sometimes, those who want to seek therapy or utilize CPS on campus, may feel validated just by talking to an adult who will listen and offer advice.

McKittrick continued, “Counseling helps to empower students in identifying challenges that are producing distress and exploring possible solutions to provide relief.”

Once students make time to practice self-care over the holidays and the break, Spring 2023 can start off in a positive and energized way.