How to get back in the swing of things after a long holiday break

Christmas is over. The new year has begun and school is back in session. Perhaps you are excited about this new semester and have been looking forward to coming back, or maybe you’re more like me, and the transition from Christmas break to school has been difficult.

As a college freshman who lives far from home, I felt more than ready to go back and see my family when the stress of finals week was over. In fact, I didn’t think three weeks would be enough time. Surprisingly, I found myself looking forward to school starting again and couldn’t wait to get back into my usual routine.

There was just one problem – my routine completely changed. I have a new schedule, new classes to adjust to and I don’t have the same friends in the same classes. It feels as though everything needs to be re-established. In addition, the excitement of starting college is gone.

The first week was overwhelming, to say the least. Though going through all your syllabi and writing deadlines in your planner is a great way to get organized, it’s also an effective way to stress yourself out. After doing so, all I could think about was the difficult semester that lies ahead – the looming assignments, essays and group projects.I found many of my friends shared these same feelings and apprehensions. 

After a weekend of rest and reflection, I found myself in better shape to tackle the second week of school. By the end of Monday, my confidence grew in the coming semester as classes and faces became familiar and I had established a new routine.

If you find yourself in the same boat as I was a couple weeks ago, rest assured in knowing you’re not alone. Whether you’re a senior looking forward to graduation or a sophomore experiencing a slump, here are a few tips to help you get back in the groove after a three-week hiatus.

First and foremost, get some sleep! According to psychologist Michael J. Breus, sleep-deprivation causes us to be more emotionally reactive, worrisome and negative – not exactly the best combination for your first few weeks back at school. 

As someone who doesn’t tolerate caffeine very well (think jittery and anxious for hours on end), I’ve made a habit of getting around eight hours of sleep each night. Many have pitied my inability to tolerate coffee’s addictive stimulant, but I see it as more of an advantage. I’ve learned to prioritize sleep, and am therefore hardly ever tired. Of course, I’m not perfect at this, but because I don’t rely on caffeine, the days where I get less than adequate sleep remind me how vital a full eight hours is. 

When I’m well rested, not only am I less moody and anxious, I’m able to do more with the time I have. My productivity increases and I get much more done.

Another piece of advice is one I received from my mentor and good friend, Britta Bunnel, a senior biology and honors humanities major.  Her advice is to not compare this semester with the last one. There will inevitably be good and bad to both, and we tend to look back on a specific period of time and only remember the good parts. 

Instead of dwelling on memories from last semester, try and shift your focus in anticipation for all that’s to come this semester. Look for something to get excited about. Is there a specific class that piques your interest? Are you getting involved in something new on campus? Are there any  professors you’re particularly excited to have?  

It may sound strange, but it could also help to think of things you are glad to leave behind. Take a moment to reflect on last semester and all that you’ve accomplished, and perhaps think of some ways you might want to improve or change for this semester.

Set goals both inside and outside of the classroom. This could be anything from building new friendships to getting straight A’s to exercising more, or just staying on top of your reading assignments. Just make sure these new goals are attainable, and don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t always go the way you plan.

If all else fails and you find yourself overwhelmed, unmotivated or tired, remind yourself to focus on the present instead of worrying over future deadlines or things you cannot control. Take it one day at a time. That’s already become my mantra this semester.

As classes begin to speed up, may you ultimately find peace and endurance in Christ going forward, and remember to give yourself grace throughout this mini-adjustment period.