U-M Counseling and Psychological Services

This time of year can be busy as our diverse nation experiences many religious holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Pancha Ganapati, and cultural traditions such as Kwanzaa, New Year's, and Winter Solstice. For many UM students, Thanksgiving and Winter Break are a time to celebrate these holidays with family and friends. For other students who do not celebrate these holidays, it is simply a time of year with extended time off from school and an opportunity to be with family.

Going home may prove to be a joyous time, or it may end up causing more stress due to family dynamics.  It also may not be possible due to long distances or strained/unhealthy family dynamics.

Below are tips to make this holiday and school break season enjoyable no matter how you spend it.

  • Difficult Experience Going Home: Often people speak of the breaks as if they are joyous times for everyone and everyone has a loving and positive environment to come back to after being away at college for some time, however, this is not the case for some. For a variety of reasons, going home for the breaks might be stressful. If this sounds like you, continue reading to discover tips for a more positive break experience. The following are suggestions for a more positive break experience:
    • 1. Be Honest
      • It’s often tempting to fake excitement about going home, but don’t be afraid to share with friends that it might not be a positive experience for you.
    • 2. Be Realistic
      • Recognizing that holidays and breaks are a hard time for you allows you to prepare strategies to cope with it.
    • 3. Utilize Positive Relationship
      • Let your friends or partners know your worries about going home and ask if they would help to support you throughout the break.
    • 4. Plan
      • Plan activities to do around your hometown to fill your time and make the break more enjoyable.
    • 5. Identify Safe Places
      • Before even heading home, try to identify places you can go to when your home environment is feeling uncomfortable (your bedroom, friend’s house, go for a walk, etc.).
  • Positive Experience When Going Home: Going home for the breaks can be an exciting time where you get to reconnect with family members and celebrate traditions that are important to you. While it may seem like it is easy to enjoy the holidays/break, here are some tips to make it your best experience yet. The following are suggestions for a more positive holiday/break experience:
    • 1. Make a holiday/break fun list
      • Participate in traditions with family and friends and look on your city’s website for fun activities.
    • 2. Be Present
      • It’s not everyday you get to be home, try to be present whether you put your phone away, stay off social media, or engage in conversation make sure you’re taking time to be present with your loved ones.
    • 3. Practice Gratitude
      • Holidays are often a time for giving and receiving, make sure to take the time to be thankful and express your gratitude.
    • 4. Reconnect with family and old friends
      • Take this time at home to reach out to old friends and strengthen relationships with them and family members.
    • 5. Enjoy the little moments.
      • Whether it’s baking or watching a movie with your loved ones, take time to enjoy their company and the special moments that the break allows.
  • Remaining on Campus/Not Going Home: With the break coming up, while some students may appreciate not having to travel and being able to spend time around town, it is not uncommon for some students (including LGBTQ students and International Students) to be faced with a difficult decision about going home. Some students may find themselves alone and with very little or nothing to do during this time, which may cause heightened feelings of loneliness and sadness for those who remain on campus. In addition, the short days and lack of sunlight in Michigan can add to feeling low in general. If you find yourself in need of mental health support when CAPS is not open, please consider reaching out to CAPS After Hours. The following are suggestions for a more positive holiday/break experience on campus:
    • 1. Relax
      • Take this time off from classes to relax and enjoy activities you may not have time for during the school year. This could include watching your favorite TV shows, reading a book, or coloring.
    • 2. Plan Get Togethers
      • Consider talking with other students in your classes or student organizations, find out who else will be staying in town and plan a get together. If holiday traditions are important to you, find a way to honor and share them with others!
    • 3. Explore and Experience
      • Even if the weather is cold and bleak in Michigan, the season has a lot to offer. For example, you might try your skills at Winter sports activities. Most facilities are open during the break.  Ann Arbor also lists events and activities HERE.
    • 4. Volunteer
      • Nonprofit organizations such as soup kitchens and shelters are always looking for people to help during the holidays. It is a wonderful way to get involved in the local community and spice up your resume.
    • 5. Receive Some Encouragement
      • If you are needing some encouragement as an International Student, lean on your community (friends, clubs, religious organizations, etc.) for support during this time. For more information visit our International Student page HERE. If you are needing some encouragement as a member of the LGBTQ community, Your Holiday Mom is an online space where supportive moms act as a “stand-in” holiday family to post encouraging holiday message to all LGBTQ youth and young adults who are without family support.