There’s nothing better than having free time: a break from the everyday tortures of school but this time comes with a cost. From school to Spring Break and back again, we all tend to deal with the same general transition periods, not to mention the stress that comes with them. You may be thinking: “Why would Spring Break be stressful?” After all we do get two weeks off from school or, in our case, potentially three whole months. But it might surprise you to learn that for most people, the lack of work and routine can actually increase their anxiety levels, according to Aiysha Malik, from the World Health Organization (WHO).
For example, at school, we are used to seeing our friends on a day-to-day basis. Over the break, our friends could be taking vacations or preoccupied with other activities. And even if our friends are around, we may not necessarily see them every day. And now we are being encouraged to isolate ourselves socially to stop the spread of coronavirus. This lack of social interaction can cause boredom or restlessness. That’s not to say it can’t be beneficial to have a break from the constantly crowded hallways of our high school; it merely means that we’ve gotten used to certain patterns of interaction and that it may be hard to suddenly transition out of them. Or in other words: it can be difficult to go from seeing your friends every day to only seeing them once over the extended break.
Another cause of Spring Break stress can be overthinking the small stuff. At school, we are always too busy to slow down and think things over. We are endlessly rushing from one class to the next. Consequently, when we spend too much time at home, we can find ourselves stressing over the smallest details of the past few school days. Don’t get me wrong, it is good to take some time to reflect, but it can also cause stress and anxiety issues, depending on how long you ruminate. As well, we tend to worry about worldwide issues, like the coronavirus pandemic. To handle these stressors, we can keep ourselves busy with activities we enjoy, like reading, writing, playing games, or hanging out with family. We can also make sure to walk outside or do something physical every day. Running will even relieve excess energy. The bottom-line is: instead of spending energy worrying, we can make the time worth it and try to get out there as much as we are able to.
Other helpful tips include practicing proper health habits and anxiety strategies. The first step to anxiety management is finding a structure in your daily life. Being stuck at home for too long without a clear plan can cause or accentuate issues like anxiety and depression. Having an everyday routine can help us find control in seemingly uncontrollable situations like these according to therapists Elizabeth Earnshaw and Mimi Winsberg. However, we also have to come to terms with the uncertain situation we find ourselves in. Not knowing what happens next can be hard for everyone. Yet instead of obsessively checking Instagram or Twitter for coronavirus updates, we can find peace in knowing that although there may not be a solid plan in place yet, there eventually will be. It is also important to keep in touch with a friend or family member to compare our experiences. We can maintain these contacts through Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. Additionally, we can make sure to eat and sleep well, which always makes it easier to handle stress.
Another strategy you can use to reduce anxiety is the what if, I can approach from Cheryl M. Bradshaw’s book, How to Like Yourself. This puts your worries into perspective by forming “what if” questions. For example, here is a question I have been thinking of: What if the school is closed for the whole year? Addressing such questions with “I can” statements, such as: I can make a routine for myself at home and take online courses if I need to. I can also stay in contact with my friends and family and use my anxiety strategies when I get too stressed out about the change in schedule. The point is, everyone is feeling anxious now. It is easy to focus in on ourselves too much when we have a lot of time to think, but we need to remember that we are not alone. We can control our anxiety and continue to move forward by remembering that no matter what happens, we all have ways to handle it.
Written by Caitlin Astrom DeWitt