10 ways to reduce anxiety after the winter break
Are you feeling anxious about going back to school or college after the winter break? Start doing these top ten tips straight away!4 min read Published: 3 Jan 2024
Are you feeling nervous about heading back to campus? Don't worry, it's natural to feel some anxiety about going back to school after the winter break. But rather than sit and worry, there are things you can do to reduce stress and boost resilience.
Increasing exercise, introducing study strategies, and practicing self-care are all effective at reducing feelings of anxiety and boosting your mental wellbeing.
If you, a friend or family member, are experiencing anxiety about going back to college, here you’ll find 10 successful strategies to improve your mood, restore your resilience, and enhance your outlook, ensuring you head back to school after the winter break with a positive frame of mind and a plan for success.
What causes anxiety?
Everyone worries when entering new situations and circumstances, but anxiety is more acute. According to professional counselor Rob Danzman, anxiety is characterized by its "intensity, duration, origin, and how it impacts life domains like work, school, relationships, and health".
There are several types of anxiety, including panic disorders, social anxiety disorders, and generalized anxiety. And yet whatever the cause of anxiety, the symptoms are usually the same: a sense of fear, dread, and general unease.
COVID-19 has hugely impacted mental health, with 66% of students surveyed by Recovery Village saying they were worried about returning to school. The same survey found that 74% of parents were worried about their child’s mental health.
Anxiety is a growing problem on college campuses, with 37% of students reporting they feel anxious at some point. Part of this is likely due to increasing awareness of the signs of anxiety.
Increasing awareness is positive, as it means more people seek help and develop coping strategies for anxiety rather than letting it worsen and potentially develop into depression. If you’re feeling anxious, it’s important to recognize the symptoms and act.
10 ways to reduce anxiety after the winter break
Here are 10 strategies, tips, and approaches every student can use to reduce anxiety about returning to college after the winter break.
1. Re-establish your routine early
Re-establishing a routine before returning to college after a holiday can help alleviate anxiety.
A few days before returning to college, gradually adjust your sleep schedule before classes resume. This helps your body clock align with your college routine, making early mornings less of a shock – ensuring you’re ready for the days and weeks ahead.
2. Practice self-care
Looking after your physical health can have a hugely positive impact on your mental health, says the Anxiety & Depression Association of America. Eating well-balanced meals, restricting alcohol and caffeine, and exercising can all boost your physical health.
Alongside healthy eating and drinking, activities like practicing mindfulness, yoga, non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) – or simply taking time out for relaxation – are all ways you can help reduce anxiety.
3. Connect with college friends and clubs
Anxiety can cause us to avoid social interactions with friends, but creating connections and sustaining them can help to reduce the feelings of anxiety. Why not start this semester by doing something new that creates connections?
Contact friends and look for opportunities to join clubs or study groups. Socializing increases the release of the hormone oxytocin, which can reduce anxiety and help establish a more positive perspective. You’ll also widen your circle and improve your social skills.
4. Organize and prioritize
Anxiety is often caused by a lack of information or negative expectations, with our brains filling in the gaps. Start the year by touching base with your professors or academic advisors to clarify the study schedule and expectations for the upcoming semester. This information can provide clarity and help you to develop a study plan and prioritize to reach your goals.
Begin each term by getting your materials, notes, and schedule in order. Setting targets and developing a plan to achieve them can significantly reduce stress, improve focus, and track the progress you’re making.
5. Use digital tools to reduce study stress
Many students find the academic requirements of college a challenge, especially as the end-of-year exams begin to come into view. New tools and technologies like Glean can support all students to study smarter by replacing much of the manual study process with an all-in-one solution for note taking, lecture recording, and revision.
6. Learn what triggers your anxiety
Our mental health fluctuates, with times of greater resilience and anxiety. Tracking your mental wellbeing in an anxiety journal or diary enables you to identify patterns in your anxiety–identifying triggers.
Understanding what causes or triggers your anxiety enables you to plan and act to reduce stressful situations or take steps to mitigate their impact.
7. Consider counseling
If you find anxiety is becoming overwhelming, then speak to on-campus support services. Every college has trained and experienced counselors who can listen to you and support you in coping with your anxiety. Never be afraid to speak to someone who can help you.
8. Build a positive perspective
Anxiety creates negative thought patterns that can lead you to doubt yourself and forget your achievements. Part of the anxiety about going back to college after the break can be caused by negative thought patterns, but you can counter these through positive thinking.
Building a positive perspective involves learning to deal with situations and approach them. Learning positive thinking skills can change your internal narrative and help build resilience when you face inevitable obstacles on your study journey.
9. Embrace flexibility
Anxiety can be caused by change, and the transition from your holiday to heading back to school after winter break can be a trigger. But change brings with it opportunity, and you should embrace that.
College is a journey of learning and growth, both academically and personally, and you've already achieved a huge amount. Instead of focusing on the negatives or being concerned about the unknown, embrace flexibility and try to get excited about new opportunities.
10. Focus on the future
Anxiety can often be caused by focusing on immediate problems, which can obscure your focus on long-term goals and what you’re striving to achieve. Studying at college will push you academically and help you achieve what you want in your career and life.
While we all face daily struggles, college is a chance for you to learn and develop. By aligning your daily actions with your aspirations, you can create a more positive view of your future – building resilience and reducing feelings of anxiety.
Want more study tips?
Many students will experience acute anxiety about going back to school after a break, but the strategies and tips here can help you build resilience and reduce anxiety.
You can find more study tips and advice on how to study smarter in the Better Learning section of our blog.
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