“Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays…” The air turns cold but a fire burns your remaining time until end of the semester exams and final class projects… Late nights and espresso shots fuel this last drive until you’re home for the holidays. At first glance, you’re excited for a break. The chance to sleep in, lounge in your pajamas, and raid your parent’s fridge. Until, BAM! The realization hits that your new found freedom has rules and limitations again. Not only do you find yourself reversing back into old family roles, past hurt may arise and surprise you. Relationship patterns and unresolved frustrations can surface, and you find yourself at war with maintaining peace and giving yourself the space you deserve. For these reasons, many college students may experience increased stress around the holidays.
How College Students Can Prepare For Holiday Stress:
– Remember Your Self-Worth – Your family may ask questions like “Are you dating?” or “How are your grades?” These questions can lead to feelings of self-doubt and irritability. When these feelings come, remind yourselves that you are worthy and that you are more than your accomplishments and achievements.
If you are looking for a good book to help prepare you for understanding your self-worth, Author Brené Brown has a plethora of books to choose from. My personal favorite is The Gifts of Imperfection which leads you on a journey exploring how to love and forgive yourself.
– Set Boundaries – When you first hear the word “boundary”, you may think of your physical space, which is true but it’s only one type of boundary. You have the right for others not to invade your personal space as well as protecting your emotional, spiritual, sexual, financial, and time boundaries. So, what does this look like?
It’s okay to say “No” – You can say no to: physical touch, conversation topics, giving resources (such as money and time), and so much more. Positive Psychology has a great article that further describes types of boundaries and examples on how to set them here. According to Garrett Counseling Director Ashley Garrett, LPC-S, “Setting clear boundaries in relationships with others shows your own self respect. Self-respect is a good starting place for others respecting your boundaries because those around you will follow your lead.”
– Communicate – Set clear expectations with your loved ones about what you want the relationship to look like. Use “I” statements that convey how you feel about situations and topics. However, conversations are not one sided. It is important to find a compromise that will satisfy both parties in the relationship. Use your active listening skills to hear what the other person is saying and reflect back that you understand what they mean.
– Seek Outside Support – This can be calling or facetiming friends you met at college or seeing old friends from your hometown. This can also be seeking professional help to support you.
As humans, we have the incredible ability to have many feelings about one situation. It’s amazing, but also overwhelming. Just know it’s okay to have mixed feelings about being home for the holidays. You are at a time in your life where you are creating yourself and figuring out what pieces of your old life and new life fit together to create the puzzle of you. Set your boundaries, communicate your needs, and remember you are worthy. If you desire professional help to support you during this season, our counselors in Jacksonville, Boaz, and Huntsville are here. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.
This blog was written by Emily Tester, ALC (#c3604a), under supervision with Jane Sweeney (#1039). Learn more about Emily here.