Time to recharge,
de-stress and recover from
at school.
December 2022 | The Learning and Wellbeing Team

Most students will feel burned out, by the end of the term. You’ve been studying the same topic for months; papers and assignments are taking up all of your time (and a good part of your sleep). In preparing for exams, you will have to go over and over and over everything you know, day in and day out, if you want to do well. You are exhausted. What used to be interesting is now just boring. You no longer that much about courses. 

Destressing and recharging over the break will be critical. If you start the next term the way you have finished this one, the next semester will be very, very long. Not to worry, here are five things you can do to recharge (and de-stress) over the holiday.  Recharging is about replenishing your reserves; de-stressing is about reducing your load so that you can recharge. Destressing and recharging are not the same, and both are important.


#1: Restore your sleep.
One of the key features of burnout, both at school and in the workplace, is exhaustion, which is your body’s way of telling you that you are not getting enough rest. So many important things happen when you sleep. Deep sleep that occurs in the first half of the night is needed to restore your body and immune system and consolidate memories. Sleep in the first half of the night contributes to your creativity. Not getting enough deep sleep makes you more likely to get sick and feel depressed. Most REM sleep happens during the second half of the night. Without enough REM, you will have more problems concentrating and learning, as well as difficulties making decisions, executing tasks and even accurately reading people’s emotions.

Tip:  To get the benefits of all of the different parts of sleep, you need to get as close to 8 hours as you can. If you have been trying to get by on less than 7 hours, it may be difficult to restore (or even develop) a proper sleep routine.  With the term over, this is a good opportunity to start (or restart) your sleep routine. Get to bed at a decent time and stay in bed for 8 hours.

#2: Restore your diet
During the last weeks of the semester, there is a good chance that you have not had enough time to eat properly or even cook meals. With all of the stress and pressure, you may end up eating the wrong foods at the wrong time, skipping meals or snacking around the clock. When your body gets tired, it craves calories – usually simple calories that are handy, which means out of a bag or a box.

Tip: After getting eight glorious hours of sleep, get up and cook yourself something healthy. You may be out of the habit of eating in the morning. Now is a good time to restore your old habit (or start a new one).

#3: Do something active that gets you out and about.

Your first inclination over the holidays may be to just sleep. You may feel like sleeping 14 hours a day. It is okay to do that for a couple of days, but then it is time to do something to restore your body and your mind. Keep in mind that the lasting benefit of sleep comes from a regular routine of about eight hours of sleep. Catching up on sleep is important, but the real benefit comes from a balanced routine that includes sleep, good food and activity.

Physical activity: Regular physical activity is good for your physical health, your mental health and also for learning. Regular physical activity is one of the best ways of restoring your sleep schedule. Regular physical activity will also boost your mood. Physical activity (even just a brisk 30-minute walk) will improve your mood and give you a sense of accomplishment for doing something for yourself.

Mental activity: One of the main contributors to burnout in school is the repetitive nature of what you have been doing all semester long. Doing the same thing over and over and over again can increase your risk for burnout.  Having to do something over and over again for days and weeks also takes time away from you doing many other things that are enjoyable, engaging and meaningful. One of the best ways to recover from burnout is to break the monotony and return to a range of activities that you used to enjoy, gave you purpose and were just engaging.

Tip: Think about what is really important to you and make sure that the break is an opportunity to do that. If spending time with people is what makes you feel best about yourself, make sure that is part of your schedule. If it is getting active outdoors, then work out where you would like to go now, write it down, and organize what you need to do – so that you don’t. If it going places and seeing things – then write down three things to see or do. It doesn’t have to be much. Anything that gets you out of the house going places and doing things will help to recharge you mentally.

How does recharging work? 

Recharging works by
reducing your exhaustion by getting more sleep and by reducing repetitiveness by getting more variety in your life. Current theories of happiness argue that there are five distinct domains of well-being, and each domain of well-being is essential.  These include positive emotions, engaging activities, fulfilling relationships, meaning and purpose and achievement.  

Repetitive, demanding tasks (such as the last few weeks of school) increase your chance of burnout, not only because they are tiring and repetitive but also because they keep you from participating in a wide range of activities. 

In order for you to recharge, you will also have to de-stress, which is very different from recharging. De-stressing is about reducing the demands that you are experiencing. For psychologists, stress can come in two forms – stress as load and stress as worry. Stress as load is about having a lot to do and not enough time to do it. Having three papers due or four exams over five days is a huge load. Having to finish those papers and also prepare for exams is even worse.  Stress as load happens when you have a lot to do and not enough time to do it. 

Stress as worry is about all of the worries, what-ifs, doubts and negative thoughts that you have in your head. It is also about all of the expectations that you and others have about you, your studies, and what you are doing for the holidays.

De-stressing is about reducing both types of stress.  With the end of term, your load is coming to an end. You won’t have coursework to tackle. So, your stress as load is going to decrease — unless you load yourself up again. De-stressing is about doing less, for the time being, getting a bit more sleep, and having time for all of the activities that will reduce the repetition in your life. 

Reducing your stress as worry is about reducing your worries, what-ifs, doubts and negative thoughts. It is about being kind to yourself (i.e., not so harsh or critical); it is about postponing your worries about school until you actually get your grades back, and it is about reducing the expectations you have of yourself of for a while and even reducing the expectations that you feel parents, friends and families have of you. 

Take the Quiz. 

 The Stress and PERMA quizzes will help you work out what to focus on. The Stress Quiz will help you work out what kind of stress you have. The PERMA Quiz will help you identify the domains of wellbeing that you might want to focus more on. 

Not sure what to do? 

If you are not sure what to do, you can check our Big List of Enjoyable Activities. Set yourself a goal of doing four things over the break. Doing something with friends (e.g., go to a movie, watch hockey or football in a sports bar, visit a museum, go for a walk in the woods); do something outdoors (e.g., a walk, a hike, ski); take a day-trip somewhere, whether by but or car (e.g., go the nearby town or city); learn how to do something new (e.g., cook, snowboard).  

Go bowling.  Really??

If you and your friends get stuck and cannot decide, then have a default, such as bowling.  Yes, that’s right. Bowling. The reason that we recommend bowling is that (a) anyone can do it (i.e., you don’t have to be good, and no one is really that good at it), (b) it strikes a nice balance between chit-chat and doing something active (e.g., chat a little, throw a ball, chat some more, but only if you want to), (c) it is super chill (e.g., there is no real pressure, no one really cares that much about the score), and (d) it usually leads to some laughing (e.g., those awful looking shoes).

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