How to improve mental health over Thanksgiving break


Sophia Zhao

With the most anticipated break of the year, here is how you can improve your mental heath while enjoying Thanksgiving. You will feel refreshed and relaxed by the end of the week.

At last, one of the most long-awaited breaks of the year has arrived, giving us a pause in the chaotic life of a high schooler and 216 hours free of sleepless nights to look forward to. With school and the added stress of finals taking a toll on our mental health, a week to rejuvenate and spoil ourselves is well deserved. Here are a few tips on how to boost your wellbeing and enjoy yourself to the fullest over Thanksgiving break.

Sleep in

One of the most dreaded sounds for all high schoolers is hearing that blaring alarm ring at an ungodly time every single morning when it’s barely light out. Especially with the weather becoming colder, getting out of bed—from the warm comfort of mounds of blankets, pillows and plushies—is a near-impossible task. Yet despite our bodies’ heaviest protests, we somehow manage to drag ourselves into the frigid dawning of a new day to get ready for school five days a week. That unavoidable routine can be cast aside. Turn that list of alarms off one after the other and sleep to your heart’s content, until your body is satiated and you’ve made up for all of the sleep you missed since day one. After all, there’s nothing as urgent as school pushing us to wake up no matter how much sleep we got the night before. Rest is the best method of recovery for exhaustion, and our brains will actually receive the juice they need to function properly that we don’t get on a daily basis, putting us in a better mood overall.

Spend time with family and friends

Before fall break, we all look forward to celebrating the holidays with our own unique family traditions. A safe haven of warm blankets accompanies a movie marathon complete with a sweet, classic hot chocolate. Perhaps a feast full of Thanksgiving essentials awaits our appetites. Or maybe the television is turned on to enjoy the action packed football game Thanksgiving day. The best part of these traditions – whatever yours may be – is the opportunity it gives us to create valuable moments with the special people in our life. These special moments can help us become less stressed about the big and little things, and everything in between; the tight-knit relationships formed between siblings, parents, grandparents, friends and whoever else in our lives can help us foster a positive mindset.

Take a brain break

To say school is stressful is a major understatement. It’s draining, exhausting and consistently demanding. The source of this exhaustion is the hours of studying and homework to prepare for the following day, only to do it all over again. And again. This challenging routine can lead to burnout, a consequence of pushing yourself too hard for too long. So, to avoid this serious consequence, spend the time off taking a break – put homework to the side for now and focus on activities you actually want to do. We shouldn’t overwork ourselves trying to get ahead. While it’s great to be productive, it’s better – and more important – to rest our minds. Relieving our minds of the pressure it is put under everyday during school will leave us feeling refreshed and rejuvenated with a new attitude.

Go outside

As students, we are prone to scoliosis, sleep deprivation, mental breakdowns, peer pressure and poor eyesight due to spending more than eight hours a day in front of screens to say the least. We don’t get enough of fresh air. We stay cooped up indoors all day and night, stressing about deadlines, exams and projects, that we forget there’s a world beyond the internet that doesn’t rely on Wi-Fi. Spending time outdoors like going on a run, going to the park or even walking a pet will replenish some of the life that has been sucked out of us. Basking in the clean and crisp atmosphere of nature is a great change of scenery, and it releases us from the confining mental and physical barriers we uphold by giving us a taste of fresh air and the limitless freedom it promises.

Detox from social media  

We all know how one single homework break goes from minutes to a seemingly endless amount of scrolling on Instagram or Tiktok. Suddenly, our eyes turn sore and a pile of undone homework sits patiently on our desks, waiting to be finished. The mindless consumption of one minute videos or posts provides a false sense of peace, and too much of it can lead to an increase of anxiety and body image. While social media can produce a few laughs, we can’t become obsessed with it. Resisting the urge to open a social media app and like a million posts is difficult, but tuning out of other people’s lives and fully living in yours is the most important. These days are when we need to take a deep breath, turn off our phones to Snapchat notifications or Twitter tweets and concentrate on what truly gives us bliss in the long term, not only for a few minutes.

Binge a favorite TV/book series

One of the greatest uses of modern technology is the ability for us to streamline entertainment. We have selections of cartoons, movies, series and books on Hulu, YouTube or even devices like a Kindle. However, in our daily lives, homework takes priority, and while we devote our time to split the work of six or seven classes in a timely manner every day after school, we often end up missing our daily dose of screen time, like scrolling through YouTube or catching up on the latest Netflix shows. With the extra time over break, it’s a good time to revisit and catch up on missed episodes of dramas or TV shows and binge read books that have been pushed onto your “to-be-read” list forever. Delving into the worlds of fantasy and fiction is always a good way to pass the time, and it’s easy to escape or even forget about reality when being sucked into an exciting adventure. It’s important that we don’t forget to enjoy the luxuries we cannot afford to visit when the pressure of school is keeping us so busy that we forget we have access to things made solely to bring a smile to our faces.

Eat your favorite foods

There is nothing more therapeutic than biting into mouth-watering comfort food. The familiar taste can brighten up your day through the nostalgia and content it provides. Maybe it’s a sweet treat or perhaps a salty snack – whatever it is, it’s sure to improve your overall wellbeing. The upcoming holiday gives ample time to get your favorite food, with cozy November flavors like pumpkin and chai to the approaching pleasant December flavors like peppermint and white chocolate. Each bite or sip into one of your favorite foods is sure to keep your spirits high throughout the break.

Go on a shopping spree

Heavy aromas of perfume, children screaming and the long lines of customers are just a few features of a bustling haven meant for one thing: retail therapy. After weeks of stressfully cramming studies, the perfect way to spoil yourself is to step into the mall for a long-awaited and needed shopping spree. Rows of shiny shoes and racks of clothing are the ultimate dose of dopamine everyone needs. The dream wardrobe you were wishing for but never had enough time to buy is available. For a few hours or even the whole day, your worries will be washed away with a pair of new sneakers or a top to show off at school. With the anticipation of Black Friday, I encourage taking advantage of the sales to purchase every material good you need. Holidays are the best times to treat yourself, and there is no better feeling than leaving the mall satisfied, lugging several bags on each arm.

Listen to music

As all high schoolers start the dreaded task of beginning homework, we put our headphones on and allow our minds to relax in the world of tunes and harmonies. Music quiets the consuming thoughts of worry for the next day of school, where an intimidating exam is awaiting our arrival. Some personal favorites are the calm, sweet melodies of Ed Sheeran’s work or the more upbeat, energizing soundtrack from “Hamilton” written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Though find your own favorites and indulge in the soothing sensation that it supplies; doing so makes the hours of studying high schoolers go through a little better. However, without the distraction of homework, we should take the opportunity of playing our favorite songs to belt it out to our heart’s content – doing so is sure to release all the overwhelming emotions and replace them with a better mood.

Take a bubble bath

To treat our inflamed muscles from running up and down three flights of stairs at school, soaking into a hot bubble bath to heal our bodies after a long week is the ultimate resort for relaxation. Pampering yourself in a hot soak relieves stress from sitting at a desk for hours or tiring sports practices. With just a combination of bath salts and sugar scrubs, you will no doubt leave the tub a transformed person, both in mind and body. Especially with the chilly temperatures, the comfort of an at-home spa can free your mind from any lingering distress. The moment you close your eyes and the hot water splashes over your face, you can escape from reality.