How important is self care over winter break?

The days surrounding Christmas and New Year's Day are called a break for a reason.

Licensed clinical social worker and The Community House staff therapist Shannon Haut said taking time to care for oneself is the very best use of the days and even weeks between one semester and the next. She encourages students to take some time for themselves while class is out of session.

"I say lean into that," said Haut, who works with young adults with special learning needs who have graduated from Hinsdale High School District 86 and now attend College of DuPage. The need to take care of oneself, she said, applies to people and students in general.

Self care doesn't look the same to everyone, but the basics of good nutrition, quality sleep and exercise can help everyone feel better, Haut said. If taking care of oneself isn't a habit, the break around the holidays might be a good time to start incorporating it into one's lifestyle and routine.

"Self care is important because mind, body and spirit are all connected," she said.

A good way for a student to begin a self-care routine is to talk to the people who support them, whether that's a parent, a good friend or even a therapist.

"Talk about when you feel you are at your best," Haut said.

Once a student identifies those things, the next step is to incorporate them into a daily routine. Self care can include things like music, reading, running or talking with a friend.

"Students should do whatever fills their cup," Haut said.

Haut said some students will look at the break between semesters as a time to prepare or even get ahead. But she warns that incessant work eventually will result in exhaustion.

"We hit a breaking point," she said, which often shows up as anxiety and depression.

Just as some students might be tempted to work through the holidays, others will be tempted to play a little harder than usual. But Haut said keeping a regular sleep schedule through break can help make the transition back to school much easier.

"Our bodies and our minds like routine," said Haut, who encourages students to resist the urge to stay up late and sleep in.

While keeping established routines in place is important, a break from the routine of school also can be an opportunity to start a healthy new habit. Haut said there's no reason to wait until Jan. 1 to begin something new, whether that's a healthier diet, weekly food prep sessions to keep eating and spending on track, or a new exercise regimen.

Haut does encourage a bit of preparation for the new semester. She encourages students to map out their new schedule before the first day of class, taking care to pencil in times for continued self care.

"That can really ease some anxiety," and offer a sense of control, Haut said.

In the meantime, take time to enjoy friends, family and yourself before school begins again, Haut said, and prepare to enter the new semester rested, refreshed and ready to learn.

- by Sandy Illian Bosch

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean