The typical college student has no time to relax in a 24-hour day. On top of classes and homework, most people also have a job, internship or club as part of their weekly routine.  

When school is in session, it is difficult to find just one hour to go to the gym or half an hour to cook dinner. There always seems to be something more important that requires their attention.

Then, mid-December arrives. Finals come to a close and students begin traveling home for winter break. With grades posted and the responsibilities of being an adult put on hold, all of their worries suddenly disappear. 

They get to visit with their families and high school friends whom they haven’t seen in weeks or months and the school-related anxieties are no longer an issue.

There’s an abrupt shift from countless unchecked items on their to-do list to nothing. If you’re anything like me, this shift feels odd and a state of relaxation is not easily achieved. If I’m not being productive in some way, it seems like a waste of time. But here’s one thing learned this winter break: relaxing is productive.

Everyone knows you’re supposed to take short breaks while doing hours of homework at a time. If you don’t, it’ll end up draining more of your energy. Breaks are necessary for endurance, but only if you do it right and take the time for yourself.

But what about over winter break? Is it necessary to work or stay busy?

Winter break is four weeks long, and the only responsibilities for most students are spending time with family and friends, and maybe working to save money for the upcoming semester.

There is no constantly checking your planner, no sitting in class strenuously trying to absorb what the professor is teaching, no struggling to find something cheap but healthy to eat three times a day. For four weeks you are afforded the time to do what you actually want to do.

You can finally binge watch a TV show without feeling guilty. Or marathon the Star Wars movies. Or actually read a book for fun. Relaxing is exactly what I did over break.

Though leisure reading isn’t for everyone, I have come to crave it. After flipping through textbooks for months, staring at anything with words on it might be the last thing you want to do. 

But with a good novel, a comfy chair and no time restraints, reading is an excellent stress-reliever. Not only is it healthier than watching hours of TV, but it is still entertainment. It is a way for you to escape your everyday life, take a break from your daily routine and immerse yourself in a new world.

Having never previously seen the movies or read the books, I started reading the Harry Potter series. A couple hours before work, I drove to my favorite coffee shop with my reading buddy. We sat at a table amid people working on laptops, chatting with friends or grabbing a coffee to go. We opened our books beside our lattes or tea or whatever we’re in the mood for that day and we just read as the calming coffeehouse music tunes out the chatter in the café.

Reading and watching TV aren’t the only ways to relax over break. Getting a massage or taking a hot bubble bath with Bath and Body Works aromas help ease your muscles and joints. Going to the gym to work out reduces stress. Playing soccer, basketball, football or any other sport with friends makes you smile and laugh. Getting a facial to rejuvenate your skin or going to the nail salon increases self-esteem.

For me, there is nothing quite like curling up on the couch with my heated blanket and my dog laying beside me as I read Harry Potter, watch a movie or relive the good Disney Channel shows like The Suite Life on Deck or Wizards of Waverly Place.

Self-care is more important than people realize. At GU, students have high standards for themselves and do whatever it takes to make those standards a reality. Some engineering students often get fewer than five hours of sleep a night because they are adamant about finishing their homework. 

People trying to earn enough money to make it through college are constantly moving. They go to class, go to work, go back to class, go to the library, go to an event and don’t arrive home until the end of the night.

Having a monthlong break was exciting and rejuvenating, but college students need to learn how to take breaks even when classes are in session. Someone once explained to me how odd it is people prioritize schoolwork over their physical health. Take a minute to process that. It really is strange.

Samantha DiMaio is a staff writer.

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