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Managing Winter Break: Tips and Resources for Mental Health from the ISD School-Based Mental Health Counselors

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Winter break holds different experiences for each of us. Some may experience moments of joy, celebration and connection, while others may feel some frustration, loss, and monotony.

Here are a few strategies for embracing the winter break.

  1. Have reasonable expectations - Some parts will be wonderful, some parts will be difficult. Allow yourself to keep expectations realistic, or if you’re able, withhold from any expectations at all. Allow your family members the privilege and opportunity of being themselves. This is a holiday gift we can all give. If you can stay present, and let it unfold as it does, you are more likely to enjoy the small moments and minimize letdown or disappointment.
  2. Celebrate - When we consistently focus on the positive, our brains begin to learn to focus on this. We are wired to focus on the danger around us, in other words the negatives, as this used to be a survival tactic. When we steer our brain to think about the positive and acknowledge that we have a choice to choose the positive, we are training our bodies to know we are safe.
  3. Create a positive space - Some families enjoy decorating this time of year. Reflect on why you are decorating? Is it to spread joy and light to yourselves or others? Even if you are not able to gather this year, sometimes creating a warm and joyful environment helps to make situations more bearable. Something as simple as a snuggly blanket, a favorite song, or your favorite book or candle can all help to create a positive or relaxing space.
  4. Move your body - Being active is extremely important for both our physical and mental health. Incorporate family activities into your break. Go outside and explore the neighborhood, plan a family dance party to your favorite music, or do something else to get active as a family.
  5. Maintain a schedule - It is easy to fall off of a schedule during breaks from school. Maintaining a schedule provides structure and helps you feel a little more “normal” and also helps to decrease anxiety. It’s ok to sleep in a little bit or relax more than when school is in session, but make sure you are getting enough sleep, practicing your hygiene routines, drinking water, eating balanced meals, getting outside and having fun.
  6. Reach out and Connect - Try to connect with people you care about as much as possible. Talk on the phone, text, Face Time, whatever works for you! Connecting with others can make us happy along with the person we are talking to. If you are struggling its ok to ask for help. Many people are struggling during this time, especially teenagers. All emotions are temporary, even if they don’t feel like they will ever get better, they will. We all deserve to get the help we need and to feel better. Help is ALWAYS available! Many of the crisis resources listed below are available 24/7
  • Crisis Text Line– Text “HEAL” to 741-741
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • The Trevor Project (for the LGBTQ+ community) – 1-866-488-7386
  • TeenLink (a peer support line where you can chat with other teens who have had similar experiences): 1-866-833-6546
  • Crisis Connections (24 hr. crisis line): 1-866-427-4747

As you head into winter break take a deep breath, hold gratitude in your heart, and focus on the moments that connect us and bring joy.

Warm wishes- The Swedish School Based Health Team