For Students: Ways to Reset & Reflect During Winter Break

After a year with so much upheaval, here are a few tips I have shared recently with students to consider over the winter break to highlight the importance of prioritizing well-being. 

Take a real break. Lift your mood with some funny TV shows, unplug by playing games or puzzles with your family, exercise by doing something you love, and find time to catch up on sleep! Get more tips for Playtime, Downtime, and Family time (PDF) here.

Help someone else. Serving others in big and small ways is a great way to support your own well-being. Do chores around the house, prepare a meal for your family, write a note to a neighbor, bring groceries to seniors, or participate in a socially-distanced service project. 

Reflect on what worked and what didn’t work during the first half of the school year. Consider the habits that seemed to work for you during remote, hybrid, or in-person learning. Make a list of a few that you want to keep doing, and then determine which habits might have held you back. 

Make a commitment for change. Commit to one behavior or practice you want to change in January. You have a better chance of making a permanent change when you focus on one change at a time. Don’t overload yourself with goals that will only last a week. Need some inspiration? 

  • Try keeping your phone in a drawer or turning it off during class so you aren’t distracted. 
  • Set a timer when doing homework. Force yourself to concentrate for 30 minutes (give or take) at a time, and then reward yourself with something fun for 5-10 minutes before setting the timer again for the next assignment.
  • Avoid procrastinating. Make a schedule and give yourself an incentive to do your work ahead of time or ask a friend to help hold you accountable for a deadline to prevent stress the morning before a paper or project is due. 
  • Make an effort to talk to new people in your classes. Studies on happiness show that we get an immense amount of satisfaction from new and positive interactions with others. 
  • Take more breaks during the school day (if you’re remote) or when you get home (if you’re in person). Try going for a quick walk, taking a stretch break, or turning on some dance music for a few minutes each day.
  • Avoid technology right before bedtime. Unplug for 30-60 minutes before bed for a better night’s sleep. Take a shower, read for pleasure, spend time with family, and charge your phone outside of your room to avoid nighttime distractions. 

Denise Pope, Ph.D., is a Co-Founder of Challenge Success and a Senior Lecturer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, where she specializes in student engagement, curriculum studies, qualitative research methods, and service learning. She is the author of, “Doing School”: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students, and co-author of Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids. Dr. Pope lectures nationally on parenting techniques and pedagogical strategies to increase student health, engagement with learning, and integrity.