Mind your mind: Readjusting to school after the holiday break

The adjustment coming back to school after the holidays is always tough.

You switch from enjoying a delicious holiday dinner with family and friends, to enjoying a glass of mulled wine on your favourite seat on the sofa, to drinking your weight in shots on New Year’s Eve — and then BAM, you’re back to sitting in a stifling classroom and sweating underneath a fresh mountain of deadlines and homework.

Most of us are probably still in “relax mode” but the academic calendar waits for no one, so here we are, crammed into the same massive, stress-laden boat. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to make the back-to-school transition easier in these first few weeks.

Build a to-do list

The first week back on the grind can be overwhelming with new schedules to hammer out, syllabi to pour over, textbooks to purchase, and looming deadlines to meet.

One thing that might be helpful is to compile a list of everything you have to do in order of importance. This may sound rudimentary, but writing a list not only helps you categorize and compartmentalize your many tasks, but it helps de-clutter your brain. I often feel that putting the words in my head down on paper is like unloading my mind, leaving it to feel lighter and less stressed. I don’t know about you, but it also feels pretty satisfying to be able to cross things off a to-do list!

Find your ideal study space

Another trick I’ve learned is to study or work in a personally tailored workspace — what I mean by this is choosing a place that best complements your study or work habits.

For example, if you are caffeine-dependent when you study, try studying in a café — plus, if you like having background noise while working, cafés are also perfect. If you prefer having silence to think, Koerner Library might be more suitable. If you don’t like the stressful atmosphere on campus, maybe try working in a library off campus, such as the Vancouver Public Library.

The key is to put yourself in an environment that will enhance your work habits, not stifle them, and choose one with the appropriate resources you need — whether it’s books, food, coffee or company. Coming back to school is stressful enough without unnecessarily putting yourself in places that will further stress you out.

Take a break

Lastly, it’s important to let yourself take breaks even if you think you don’t have time for one.

There’s understandably a lot to do in the first few weeks back, but let yourself have a coffee or food break if you feel yourself running low on energy. Sit down and enjoy that coffee or meal without scrolling through your emails or texts. Go to the gym and burn off your stress for an hour. Let yourself sit in front of your TV and zone out for a little bit after a long day, take a bath, cook a proper meal, go for a night drive or listen to some music — remember it’s okay to let yourself slow down even if it feels like life is speeding back up too quickly. Rome wasn’t built in a day. All your tasks won’t be finished in one, either.

The second semester usually requires more mental stamina and emotional willpower than the first, but you’re going to be okay. You’ve made it this far.

The author of this column is not a mental health professional. If you need additional support, please contact Student Health Services, Sexual Assault Support Centre and/or the Wellness Centre. In the case of an emergency, please call 911.