Making the Most of Your Winter Break: 6 Tips for Students

how to make the most of winter break

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It’s finally here, friends: the long-awaited, much-needed TIME OUT you’ve been waiting for all semester long…Time to kick back, relax, and just straight chill because IT’S WINTER BREAK!

For many of you, Christmas break has only just begun, so you’re probably still laying around in your PJs all day, watching Netflix (hopefully those incredibly cheesy Christmas movies…if you haven’t seen The Spirit of Christmas, you’re missing out), and eating everything in sight because it’s the holidays and that’s just what you do, right?

While that may be straight up heaven on earth for a little while after enduring a tough semester in school, odds are that after a few days or even a week of Christmas couch-potatoing (yes, I made that a verb), you’ll probably start to feel pretty sluggish, unmotivated, and unequipped for life after the holiday season ends. And unfortunately friends, it does have to come to an end eventually.

So what if there’s a better way to spend your holiday break?

Make the Most of Your Winter Break

While the easy thing to do over your Christmas break is to lounge around and just plan to do nothing at all, this month or so off from school can actually be a pivotal time in your journey academically, professionally, and personally.

Having a month off from school gives you a lot of extra time on your hands to think, breathe, and try new things–so why not be wise with it and invest it well rather than waste it on Netflix?

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together” (shoutout to Van Gogh for the wisdom). Choosing to invest your time well over your holiday break doesn’t have to mean spending all of your new-found free time chasing goals, but rather, you can find simple ways to invest a little bit of your time each day toward something purposeful, and over time, those small steps will grow into something greater.

You’ll be glad you chose to invest your time in this way, because after winter break is over, you’ll be re-energized, motivated, and ready to kick some serious booty in the new year.

Let’s take a look at a few ways you can make the most of your winter break!

6 Steps to a Productive Holiday Break

  1. Unwind

After a long semester of exams, clinicals, papers, and everything in between, the first thing you’ll probably want to do on your Christmas break is to take time to rest, relax, and unwind.

Enduring a tough semester can put a lot of strain on your mind and body that you may not even be aware of. Take a moment to sit, take a few deep breaths, and close your eyes. Check in with yourself. Are you carrying stress in your shoulders? Are you tensing your stomach? Clenching your jaw? Curling your fists or picking at your fingernails?

All of these are signs of stress and anxiety, so after you’ve taken a moment to notice how you’re truly feeling, make a plan to intentionally let go of the stress and unwind. Some great ways to do this are getting a massage (or having a full on spa day if your budget allows), taking a yoga class, writing in a journal, or getting together with an old friend and pouring your heart out over coffee.

Just make sure that whatever you do is something that will actually help you unwind–not something that will just numb your mind, like watching Netflix for days on end (sorry but you know it’s true).

  1. Reflect

Once you’ve allowed yourself to unwind from a stressful semester, it’s time to grab your favorite journal and spend some time reflecting on the semester.

How did it go? What went well this semester? What didn’t go so well? What can you do differently next semester in order to make a positive change? How have you seen yourself grow professionally, academically, and personally?

Spend some time, maybe even just 30 minutes to an hour or so, just replaying the semester in your head and considering what habits worked well for you and what habits you may need to focus on changing next semester.

Life is all about growth, and since we are constantly in progress, it’s important to take a moment to stop and reflect before carrying on so that you can make any necessary changes to your habits and routines. This will also help you appreciate the process more, so you won’t feel so tempted to just blow through the next semester without even considering how you’ve grown.

  1. Set a Goal

After you’ve taken some time to reflect, you should now have a clearer outlook for how you would like to continue to grow.

Having a month off for the holidays gives you the perfect amount of free time to start and complete a short-term goal that will help you feel motivated, energized, and ready to kick off the new year.

So plan for just one short-term goal that you can definitely accomplish before winter break is over!

Your goal can be to read a book you’ve been wanting to read, or to work out 3 or 4 times per week, or to invest some time researching and trying out a few new healthy recipes to add into your typical meal rotation.

Whatever your goal may be, make sure it is a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound. This is a sure way to get that goal completed so you can be well on your way to a productive and motivated new year.

  1. Create New Year’s Resolutions

While we’re on the topic of goal-setting, why not take some time to make a few new years resolutions as well? These can be formed in conjunction with your one short-term goal for holiday break or completely different.

Again, just make sure you are creating SMART goals so that you have a realistic plan for completing them, which will boost your confidence and keep your motivated throughout the year.

Try choosing 2 or 3 areas you’d like to grow in, whether that be your health, education, relationships, or whatever else. Then come up with one SMART goal for each area of growth, write it down, and tape it somewhere where you’ll see it every day.

It will also help if you can write out some smaller steps to take towards reaching each of your new year’s goals.

  1. Study (Just a Little)

Although this may not be your favorite way to make the most of your winter break, it can be extremely beneficial to take 20 minutes or so each day of the holiday break to study so that your brain doesn’t turn into complete mush.

Although you may be fine without studying at all over winter break, taking just 20 minutes a day can really help you stay on top of your game academically so that the transition back into the spring semester won’t be so hard. Plus, this will give you a leg up so that you feel more prepared to be successful in completing school, passing your NBCOT exam, and getting your dream occupational therapy job.

So friend, plan to study for just 20 minutes a day over winter break, and you’re sure to see some amazing results. You can make flash cards, study guides, or just skim over old textbooks. Do what works for you, and remember, the best occupational therapists are the ones who really pour their hearts into it. Besides, it’s only 20 minutes!

  1. Prep for Next Semester

Last but certainly not least on my list of tips to make the most of your holiday break is to prepare yourself for the semester ahead.

I absolutely LOVE beginning a new semester. My organizational, super type A self absolutely LOVES getting a new planner, new school supplies, and new textbooks. So get yourself some new school supplies, get a cute new calendar, and get pumped for the new year ahead!

Make sure you also check in with your school to be sure everything is set for the next semester including your class schedule, textbooks, financial aid, housing, and anything else that may need to be kept in order.

You can also write out your weekly schedule and plan some time for self-care, exercise, meal prep, and anything else that is important to you so that you have a plan in place and ready to go. Doing this will help you feel so much more prepared and confident when you step back on campus that first day of the spring semester ready to rock it.

Have Any More Tips?

I hope you’ve enjoyed these 6 steps to a more successful, productive holiday break. Do you have any other tips you would add to this list? Feel free to comment them below, or reach out to me! I always love chatting with prospective OT students, current OT students, and OT practitioners!

Now you’re all set for a wonderful winter break that will leave you feeling motivated and energized for the year ahead! Have a Merry Christmas, and the happiest new year! Best of luck to you!

 

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