Countdown to College

Managing your free time and anxiety as you prepare to go back to college.

Like most college students, I have a love-hate relationship with my education, and going back to school after a long winter break fills me with a mixture of emotions. Maybe you’re dreading going back to school because you have to take a class with a terrible professor. As bad as that may be, you also know that it’s gonna feel so good to see all of your college friends again. One thing is for sure, this holiday break can make people feel anxious and even lost as we try to manage all of this free time. Yes, some people work over holiday break to make a little extra money, but the majority of college students even when working have more free time than during the academic year.

this holiday break can make people feel anxious and even lost as we try to manage all of this free time

College students over break resolve to do two things; hang out with friends, and relax. There’s nothing bad about relaxing, but what if there was something more that we could do with our time. What if instead of playing video games, binge watching Friends on Netflix, and sleeping in until noon that we decided to make a plan every day. The thing that differentiates our academic semesters from our breaks is the level of our intentionality. During the school year everything is intentional from the time that we eat, study, and wake up or go to bed. Over break though, we just wing it. We wake up when we want and do whatever we want when we feel like it. I don’t know about you, but my holiday break often feels like a waste of time. I learn and do virtually nothing significant beyond hanging out with friends and relaxing. And before I know it, it’s over. For years this is how I’ve spent my break and I’ve justified it by saying, “I need this time to relax.”

The thing that differentiates our academic semesters from our breaks is the level of our intentionality

As I’ve grown older I’ve become more and more anxious over any extended break from school. I think to myself when I’m lying in my bed at night, “was today another wasted day?” As strange as this may sound, the things I miss most about college aren’t just my friends or the parties, I miss the learning and challenges of it all. This is the problem I’ve encountered during my time off from school, I’m not being challenged and it fills me with anxiety and nervous energy.

I’m not intentional with how I manage my time each day. I don’t wake up with a plan, I usually just wing it. And when I wing it, I do the things that bring me the most pleasure instead of making good use of these days I have off. All this to say, I want to change this faulty mindset and my unproductive behaviors. I don’t believe that the main purpose of a holiday break is to indulge every little desire and impulse. If we begin to see this extended time off as an opportunity to grow ourselves and express our creativity, then we will become less anxious and more satisfied on a day to day basis.

Here’s what I‘m going to be intentional about for the next two weeks, and I challenge you to do the same.

  1. Make a written plan every day of the things I want to get done
  2. Don’t sleep in until noon, and don’t stay up past midnight
  3. Have an alarm and wake up around 8 am
  4. Read at least 1 book over the entire break
  5. Clean something
  6. Exercise
  7. Review some course material from the previous semester
  8. Write or journal

These are just examples of the things I want to do, but I encourage you to make your own unique list. Having goals like these can help you to be less anxious and feel more satisfied with life. Just because you are on break does not mean you should just “wing it,” but instead be intentional. None of this is to say that you shouldn’t watch TV or hang out with old high school friends, but make sure you allow yourself a few hours every day to be intentionally productive. I know without a doubt that implementing these strategies will better prepare you for the spring semester and will make your break even more enjoyable.

Have a great day!

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