Here we are, that sweet spot between quarters allowing everyone to recuperate from term papers and late-night cram study sessions. Maybe you plan on taking a trip; maybe you have been putting aside a new project or game to dig into with your free time; or maybe you will head back home and see that special pet you have been missing. You should never lose sight of the fact that break is break and should be about recharging those batteries, but it’s also incredibly easy to get to the end of any break from school with the realization that you’ve gotten a little too far from the day-to-day disciplines of school. I’m talking about staying up until 4:00 a.m., having no discernable meal schedule and going a few days without getting out of your pajamas.
A great way of finding a balance between full break-induced sloth and your school routine is to set a few goals for your time between quarters. We don’t have tons of time, but you might find that by picking a few things that you know you want to accomplish that you can do plenty of sleeping in while also having reasons throughout the day to dial your brain up and focus. Sure, deciding that you are going to watch every episode of Seinfeld again is a sort of goal, but here is a list of 15 possible goals you might set for yourself depending on your interests or what you would like to be able to look back on break and say you accomplished. To the best of my ability, I’ve tried to highlight ideas that you might be able to really knock out in a week rather than simply the beginning of something much longer, such as “Learning French.”
- Try listening to a new album a day from beginning to end. It’s up to you whether you have this on in the background or really focus and listen, but this is a great way to get to know new artists or develop a deeper understanding of performers you already appreciate.
- Read a book this week (or multiple books, depending on your appetite). I think everyone has at least some reading list in their head of things they wish they had time for. The past few months have seen a lot of awards go out to books published in 2021, such as the National Book Award, which can help you get in touch with new work.
- Try to revisit an old hobby that you have let slip. For instance, many students tuck a musical instrument away after high school, which then gathers dust as they feel too rusty or unmotivated to pick it back up. Especially for those returning home, you might try to brush up on an old talent with the intent of coming back to school and finding a theater troupe, band, sports team, etc.
- Set a workout goal or a run schedule. You know it was going to be on here, but setting goals and training yourself to use at least some of break time as workout time is a key way of both making the time off feel productive and maintaining your energy levels once it is time to get back to class. Maybe you make yourself go out running in the sunshine three times this week; see if that doesn’t make it easier to keep the habit up throughout the spring.
- Try cooking a few new recipes; if you are like me, work and school lead me to turning to convenient frozen foods or not having the energy to spend studying a new recipe, so break time is a prime opportunity for exploration. Perhaps going for a new one each day would only work for dedicated and aspiring chefs, but adding a few new possibilities to your home menu can feel great!
- Bouncing off of that last one, see if you can cook for yourself for a week or try meal prepping for the week if you have ever been interested in that practice. Not only will this help you practice the cooking skills you have, but it will almost certainly be a bit easier on your wallet. Once we get back to our regular routine, you might find that being a bit more used to prepping your own meals in large batches helps you actually reduce on cooking time overall.
- Again, for travelers, try to see a friend or family member who you haven’t caught up with in a long time. I know that there are some relationships that COVID made whither simply because I was no longer around that person or my routine has shifted, but if I got over the slightly embarrassing feeling of having not talked with them for awhile, I would enjoy that person’s company again just like I used to!
- Perhaps this is a bit of an oddball one, but consider memorizing something interesting. For instance, if you start on Monday and memorize eight U.S. presidents in order starting with Washington, and you are able to add eight more presidents to the string each day, then you would have every president memorized by Sunday. Is that the greatest accomplishment? Well, no, but if a chemist has most of the periodic table memorized, then I’m sure that helps from time to time. All it takes is a bit of drilling and repetition.
- Get your hands in the dirt and start a garden! I know many college living situations don’t give you a garden or outdoor space of your own to cultivate, but particularly if you live in an apartment or are returning home, then you might spend some time each day starting a new garden or sprucing up your existing one. With a little tending throughout the year, you might be really proud of your crop by summertime.
- Take a week away from sugary drinks like soda or alcoholic drinks. Your choice may depend on your age and your habits, but our blog has recently detailed how much of a change you can make in your overall diet through trimming extra calories out of the drinks you enjoy. Maybe break is the perfect opportunity to step away from the daily flow and improve your diet a bit.
- Start or resume a journal. While the act of actually writing on a page or typing into a blog can help get some thoughts off your chest, one of the best parts of journaling is that it trains your brain to be a little more alert during the day. Sometimes, a kind act or an interesting interaction with a stranger turns from something to be forgotten into an “Oooh, I will have to write about that later!” type of moment. This makes it a prime activity for break when it becomes easy for each day to start blurring together.
- Take a week off social media or limit your usage time. Like many of the other suggestions, this one comes down to using the break from school as a break from other habits. Particularly if you are someone whose individual use of social media is meshed with school (i.e. you are in groups or clubs that use social media to coordinate and plan events), then having this breathing room might help you reevaluate your internet habits.
- Fix your sleep schedule. I can think of so, so many breaks when I would get to the final day before school and realize that I was used to waking up hours past when my new morning classes would begin. This leads to either trying desperately to get to bed early against the grain of my schedule or getting to class the next day feeling miserable (maybe both). If you are someone who already feels like they are sacrificing sleep at school, use this time to set up a healthy sleep schedule to use as an asset once you return to Life U.
- Try going vegetarian for a week. This might actually help you double or triple-up on some cooking goals from above, but cutting down on meat consumption can have numerous health benefits for you and environmental effects for the world. It can also just give you perspective on the kinds of choices that different people go through every day if they don’t habitually eat meat.
- Reset your caffeine intake by cutting it out or set a one-cup limit. Again, some habits like poor sleep or caffeine use in the absence of sleep can feel hard to address during the school year because other deadlines and activities are pressuring you from all sides. Particularly if you are looking ahead to a relaxing break, see if you can put a dent in that caffeine dependence.