Are you dreading being back after the long winter break?
Returning to your boarding school or university after the long pause might be a happy event for some, but it’s a drag for many. I’d even say some teachers and staff feel the same about returning after these holiday celebrations. Maybe you’ve visited your family and friends in another country? If you’re an international student, you might be experiencing a huge temperature change (from hot Mexico to cold Canada) or being jet-lagged after a long flight from Asia. If you’re a day student, all the stories about exotic locations can feel endless to listen to.
So, if you’re not feeling your best now, keep reading. I mentioned the adaptation curve at the beginning of the school year, and I’m bringing it up again now. Why? Because it will help you understand that you’re not alone and that people worldwide have a hard time adjusting and readjusting to transitions. The topic is so popular that it has been studied over and over. You might experience a mix of feelings. It might also seem like you’re either starting over again or have gone back on the curve. This is completely normal! Maybe you didn’t experience anything in September, and now it hit you. Just know it will take some time to settle back in and get used to your room and the people here again.
Is there anything you can do to help yourself manage it well? Yes! Here are some ideas:
1. Go back to my blog post explaining the adaptation curve and read about the characteristics of the different stages.
2. Take a look at the curve and find out which stage you’re currently at.
3. Realize that you’ve started the school or uni year in September and made it this far. You will pass this challenge as well. It’s like January is the new September.
4. Acknowledge your current state. What are you feeling? Are you feeling angry, sad, irritated, resentful, or homesick….? Any other feelings?
5. Think about some encouraging words you would say to a good friend. Now address them to yourself, like, “It’s okay to feel this way. I’ll feel better in a month.”
6. Reach out to your friends and share your feelings if you feel comfortable doing this. If not, talk to your parents, siblings, or friends at home about it. Or you could mention it to your house mom, advisor, or your favorite teacher or staff. Make an appointment with the school counselor, nurse, and staff at the health center and get ideas about personalized social-emotional support.
7. Maintain regular contact with people you like back home, family, and friends. Set aside the time to call, text, and Facetime them. Schedule it in your agenda. Plan it; if not, the days will just go by, and you’ll “try calling tomorrow.” Before you know it, another week has gone by, and you feel the same way…
10. Ask your parents and friends to reach out to you on a regular basis if they haven’t heard from you in x days.
11. Have you heard about “care packages”? Ask your family if they won’t mind surprising you with one occasionally. Maybe browse together which you would like. There are good ones with skincare, snacks, games, art supplies, books, etc.
12. Make a list of activities and things you like to do and that always make you feel good. Include quick and easy as well as longer ones. Examples: taking a shower, sketching for 10 minutes, or walking to the next supermarket. Keep the list handy for challenging days.
13. Did you enjoy playing a board or card game over the break? Try out playing games with people where you are.
14. If you haven’t decorated your room, now might be a good moment to do so. Get a new pillow, or print out some photos and stick them onto the wall with blue tack.
15. Start a “one-positive-thing-a-day” jar or Ziplock bag. Every evening, think about one positive event that happened that day. Write it down on a small piece of paper, fold it up, and put it into a container of your choice. After two weeks, you’ll have 14 little positive reminders that not all is always negative.
16. Avoid going down the social media rabbit hole when you’re not feeling your best. I know how easy it is to fall into… But then you’ll be in the artificial world instead of the real one. If you do pick up the phone, set a timer, and when the alarm goes off, put it away.
17. Get busy and try to participate in activities, even if you don’t feel like it. What about if you told yourself to attend the activity for, let’s say, 15 minutes, and if you don’t like it, then you can leave? Give yourself the task to try it out, at least.
19. Sign up for weekend trips to get out whenever you can. Being in other surroundings apart from your room and your school/uni will open your eyes and mind and confirm that there is world apart from school. Trying out new winter activities is a great way to “shock the system” with the cold winter temperatures waking it up if you live in a cold climate.
20. Watch out if your “symptoms” and feelings persist for more than a week or two. Don’t let other people brush them off with “you’re just homesick” and “you’ll be fine”. Being homesick is real and can make you feel down, sad, teary, or lonely. You might have an upset stomach, headaches, or back pain. You may find it hard to concentrate, experience a lack of energy, and feel not “interested” in anything. Maybe you have lots of negative voices in your head. If this is the case, talk to someone.
Remember, this is another adaptation that can feel like a rollercoaster. I’m not telling you to "enjoy the ride” but to realize that if you’re feeling down today, it will go upwards again.
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