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The 6 Easiest Ways to Transition Back to School After a Holiday

Advice from college students and alumni

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

My least favorite feeling hits when I’m laying in bed: the realization that in just a few hours, I’ll be leaving and flying across the country to go back to college in the unfamiliar forests of upstate New York; far, far away from my golden, desert Arizona.

However, after doing this back and forth a few times, I have come to recognize that this transition can be uncomfortable for most of us. Six college students and alumni expound their tips and tricks to ease the transition back after break.

Maintain a routine during the holiday

“I don’t let the holiday season turn me into a couch potato—I stay active. I find a routine, usually I try to have an internship over break in order to keep some sort of momentum going. It’s important to find a balance between rest and work, but having such a long period of time without practicing diligence or regularity can make it hard to get back into a busy routine.”
-Kenza Mourji, Union College

Turn on ‘back to school’ mode at least a week before school starts

“Starting a “back to school” schedule before about a week before the semester starts is key. The hardest part is readjusting from sleeping in and not having to maintain any sort of set schedule. So if you know you have a class before 10am, practice waking up in time before you go back!”
-Kanak Jha, Journalist & Arizona State Alum

Remind yourself that you will be okay

“The transition back to school after the holiday is easier when you don’t look at it as a huge transition. If you’ve been making it through school so far, you’ll be just fine as you continue—and if you want to do better that’s great too. Taking time for yourself and developing a routine is calming and creates a safe environment to fall back on if you get too stressed. Being gentle and honest with yourself is important, and not being afraid to take up space and make yourself heard around others.”
-Amanda Lee, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Deliberately invest time in self-care

“(1) Still ensuring time for your self: I had waves of anxiety upon returning to school and I realized I did not factor in enough time to simply decompress, organize, or rest. Whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood, a nap, or meditation; saving 5 minutes to an hour for yourself each day is important ! (2) Going with the flow: knowing things don’t necessarily always go as planned. This is okay. You may be strapped for time and not have that alone time each and every day but stressing over a perfect routine or structure may cause even more stress. If you get off your boat, just get back on, not go completely off your entire course. (3) Do something new, find a new passion or explore existing opportunities. Sometimes it’s easy for things to seem boring or mundane when doing similar things over long periods of time. I find that delving into a passion just a little longer or getting involved in a new activity can help improve mental health / stress moments. (4) Take a step away or back from just your work/campus. Though this sounds redundant to other options listed, try to actively remove yourself from your campus environment at least a few times a month. Go on a hike, go for a drive, go somewhere. It is important to remember that the campus you attend is not the whole world !”
-Alex Trousilek, Union College

Achieve a healthy work-life balance

“Keep in mind that school is equal parts stressful and fun. While your workload may have dramatically increased from the holidays, there are still plenty of reasons to smile. Going back to school means we get to reconnect with our friends and achieve self fulfillment through chasing our life goals. You can always balance school with whatever makes you happy.“
-Arun Sitsabeshon, Union College

Keep a positive mindset

“Try not to overthink things and be grateful for what you have rather than thinking about what you don’t have. Be as positive as possible because it’s definitely hard going back, but worth it.”
-Akash Koul, Union College

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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