Learn from sheltering in place, improve your winter break

By Meredith Howard | Assistant News Editor

No one’s time at home during shelter-in-place orders was perfect. During a pandemic, the likes of which none of us have lived through before, the focus was on survival for most people. Throughout this troubling time though, there were more opportunities to explore hobbies and extracurricular interests.

There are coping mechanisms from sheltering in place that I would like to carry over to this almost-eight-week time at home, and some I hope to leave behind. We should all strive to learn from our isolated months to try and improve this extended winter break.

Strategies I recommend

One of the most important methods I used to stay sane at home for such a long period of time was imposing artificial structure onto my day. For me, this looked like going to bed and waking up and the same time every day, completing a list of tasks before taking a break, and driving through Dunkin’ for iced coffee some afternoons as a treat since I wasn’t seeing any friends in person.

This isn’t for everyone, but planning my days really helped me to create a sense of normalcy, and I intend to do it again this winter, even though I won’t have my normal coursework.

Personally, when I don’t have school to do, I structure my days around my freelancing odd-jobs and achieving (sometimes arbitrary) goals for myself.

Rest and focusing on hobbies is also very important, so I spent a lot of time reading, watching TV, playing Animal Crossing and coloring. I also did my best to stay in touch with friends through Zoom and Facetime, but it obviously isn’t as fulfilling as in-person interactions are. I still observed guidelines and stayed home, but hopefully, this winter break will look different from shelter-in-place for most people.

I plan on regularly seeing two to three friends from outside my household over the break, pending that my home state doesn’t institute a complete ban on gatherings again. Please keep an eye on COVID-19 case numbers and positivity rates as you consider what level of in-person social interactions you pursue this break.

What to watch out for

One of my main struggles during my time at home was spending too much time on screens, specifically on social media. There’s nothing wrong with some TikTok or Instagram in moderation if it doesn’t appear to be affecting you, but be sure to check in with yourself to make sure it’s not having a negative impact.

One of the dangers of overusing social media is FOMO, which is extra harmful during a pandemic. It can be frustrating to see people hanging out in irresponsibly large groups, and it can make us question why we choose to follow social distancing guidelines. Limiting time on social media during the holidays will be helpful to avoid this feeling.

Another issue with too much screen time is that it’s physically unhealthy for you. The Mayo Clinic recommends no more than two hours on screens per day for teens and adults. I can personally attest that I spend way more time than that on my phone, and I tend to feel better when I choose a book over endless scrolling.

A major factor to consider when planning your winter break is your mental health. If you really struggled with the extended time at home from March to August, consider creating a support system to the best of your abilities before we go home in a few weeks.

This can look like letting your friends know ways in which they can support you, such as regular calls or hangouts if applicable. This can also mean contacting counselors in your state to set-up some sessions to preemptively manage your emotional state.

More importantly than anything, make this winter break as restful as you can. The holidays can be tough, and it’s vital to take care of yourself so you can enter into the spring semester excited and recharged. Keep your shelter-in-place comforts and try to ditch the bad habits.