Time off from school, while extremely deserved and much needed, can seem a little surreal at first. Your mind might still be thinking an exam is coming, a paper is due, or there is something you should be reviewing but aren’t! It is important to try to quickly transition into a mental place away from your studies, just for a short while, to ensure you can recharge yourself effectively for the next leg of the journey.
Here are my five tips for making the most out of your time off:
Remember all those important things you put off until you had “time”? Going to the dentist. Renewing your ACLS certification that is about to expire. Getting the car serviced. I watched the tires on my classmate’s Mini Cooper progressively lose air throughout the semester until she rolled home after finals on a flat, too tired to even wait for a tow truck.
Try to tackle those important details that will return your life to a functional level before you have to hit the books again.
2. Friends and Family
You know those people who have been encouraging you throughout this whole thing – cheering you on despite the fact you have repeatedly declined invitations to visit or go out with them because you needed to study?
It may be time to call them and let them know you’re alive. Go take them to dinner and talk about something other than school. It’s so important to show gratitude to those who have been there during your education, because that support is such a gift.
3. Get UP
Seriously, get out of bed and go outside. Between the library, the classroom, the hospital, and Starbucks, the volume of time we have all spent indoors-and sitting- is disturbing.
Go for a walk or bike ride and get some blood flowing. Everyone knows that exercise contributes to mental health and clarity, but unfortunately we don’t do it because we are busy with school. The first time I went for a run after finals week, I felt like I was wearing a lead suit. The hardest part is to restart, but it only takes once to get going again.
4. Restore balance
Besides exercise, two of the basics – sleep and healthy eating – will set a foundation for the next stretch of classes. Get on a normal sleep cycle and practice the same sleep hygiene that you would advise a patient.
Try to wean yourself off the large volumes of caffeine you consumed during finals and avoid any late in the day. Sugar is another demon we all know wreaks havoc and leads to fatigue and crashes. If you enjoy cooking, prep some healthy meals and freeze for later so you aren’t reaching for takeout or junk when you get busy again.
5. Mental detox
Try to do a small thing each day that relaxes your mind, maybe some type of activity that requires a little focus, but is still calming. Baking, cooking, crafting and painting are great outlets for some people.
Adult coloring books have become really popular for stress relief and jigsaw puzzles are strangely relaxing. Whatever it is, find a simple activity that will help you shift out of that part of your brain that is crammed with lab values and diagnostic criteria. Just give it a rest. You’ve earned it!
If you find yourself worried or preoccupied with your upcoming semester, channel that into organizing or making changes to your home environment that will make it easier on you when you return to school. Archive old material, make space for new stuff, and get rid of junk.
Make the most of this time off, and you will start your next leg of school off right. Enjoy your time off, you deserve it!!