The final month of the year is filled of clashing emotions. On one hand, you’ve the promise of family and friends over the festive period, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas. On the other hand, coursework deadlines and exam preparations tend to pile unwanted stress on us, their inevitability only a moment’s thought away. Forgetting about assignments and deadlines can be difficult, particularly if you’re the sort who likes to tick things off as completed as soon as possible (guilty). Also, a lot of people I know plan to keep revising over Christmas itself, which I find remarkably optimistic – is it really plausible to try and work on Christmas Day?
I suppose this is less a question of plausibility and more one of reality. It isn’t beyond belief to hide away on Christmas Day and write up a draft of coursework – planning work for the whole of Christmas week is another issue. Whether you observe Christmas or not, that week is surely going to be an exceptional one, filled with family time and meeting with friends whilst everybody’s available (for once), so not making allowances for it in any timetable seems short-sighted and naïve. Trying to live through Christmas week like any other is a plan doomed to fail, as hard as you might try.
Yet the workload doesn’t disappear just because it’s Christmas – it will always be there, and very often any approaching deadlines or exam dates will settle somewhere in your mind, popping up frequently to dampen any fun you may be having. Stress will always make itself known at the worst times, whether you’re lying in bed trying to sleep or waiting for that one friend that’s always ten minutes late; having phones by our side all the time hardly makes things any easier, especially if you’re unfortunate enough to have friends posting ‘revision’ pictures on social media. When cheer and pressure are around every corner as much as they are at Christmas, it’s easy to lose yourself.
Bearing all this in mind, we return to our opening question – is it sensible to try and work over the festive season? Is closing yourself off from the world to get stuff done worse than struggling with the feeling of ‘wasting time’? Neither is an appealing choice, true, and that’s why I’ve been thinking of a way out of it. As usual, my solution involves allowing more honesty than we’re inclined to, specifically being honest with yourself.
Rather than expecting yourself to treat Christmas like any other period, or giving up on planning entirely, make peace with reality – you’re probably not going to get anything done on Christmas Day, and if you’re going to a party one night it’s unreasonable to expect you’ll be in any state to write about Victorian novels the morning after. Mark out time for family, friends, and relaxation, and admit to yourself that those days are a lost cause in terms of work (which is not necessarily a bad thing, too much work is unhealthy for anybody). Once you’ve admitted which days you’ll be out of commission, the time remaining is yours to use as you like; contrary to what you might be thinking, the majority of the festive period is a gift of free time, so save your colourful timetables and sticky notes for those days. You’ll be happier, less stressed (ideally), and be making far better use of your time than if you simply procrastinated whilst stressing about work, which a lot of people I know end up doing.
Of course, life doesn’t conform to timetables, as much as we might like it too. If something catches you by surprise and gets in the way of study time, be sure to make up for it later but more importantly don’t worry. After all, life is full of surprises, and if you let each one stress you out, you’ll miss a lot of opportunities. Above all, have a great holiday period!