5 Ways to Stay Sane When You Can’t Go Home for the Holidays

“Alexa, play ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You,’” I said as soon as the clock hit midnight on November 1.

It’s officially the most wonderful time of the year. (Well, if you’re a Christmas lover, then yes.) Get ready to escape your school bubble and spend time with family.

Enter adulthood. Dun, dun, dun. It’s steadily approaching. Some students aren’t able to make that trip home, a problem that may become a recurring theme. The further we progress into college, the harder we find time to do the fun things that we were once used to. For unfortunate students like myself, responsibilities even keep us planted in Gainesville. Fear not. Whether it is work obligations or other scheduling conflicts, we’re in this together. Follow these tips, and don’t worry about the FOMO.

1. Host a friendsgiving

Hey, maybe you’re not the only one stuck in town. Surround yourself with good people to take your mind off of missing family. Maybe ask a coworker to join you for a holiday feast. Invite your friends over for a friendsgiving! Good company can completely reverse a bad situation and strengthen any bond.

Pro-tip: If you can’t cook or don’t feel like planning a dinner, Bahama Breeze, Chili’s and iHOP are some locations that will remain open on Thanksgiving Day, according to Delish.

(Call your local restaurant ahead of time to make sure they’re open!)

2. Explore surrounding areas

Photo credit: Madison Imschweiler/WUFT News

Living in a town that drips orange and blue, it can be easy to forget about all the other places to visit outside of UF. Surrounding areas like Micanopy and Newberry are waiting to be explored. Micanopy has cute antique shops. Tioga Town Center is a beautiful area located near Newberry; It plays host to Starbucks, World of Beer and Maple Street Biscuit Company. Haile Village Center resembles the charming town of Stars Hollow from “Gilmore Girls.” It’s a little getaway, just a 15-minute drive from town. Grab a coffee from Patticakes, and walk around the village that is lit up for the Christmas season.

Gainesville can be suffocating, for a lack of a better word. But experiencing a different perspective can be a nice break. Get out of your cramped apartment. The world seems much smaller when we don’t go out to see what there is to offer.

3. Binge-watch

Finally. Any show your heart desires. Curious of a show you heard about through a friend? Go ahead. Play it. Alternate between Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. You have all the time in the world.

Go to the movies! There won’t be any lines or trouble getting prime seating.

Pro-tip: Visit Celebration Pointe if you haven’t already. It’s the newest shopping center in Gainesville. The Regal theatre includes reclining seats and a giant screen. After the movie, walk just a few feet away to Kilwins for a sweet treat.

4. Find a new hobby

As silly as it may sound, a hobby can both stimulate the mind and distract it. Find a new activity to try, and you may even find your passion! Painting, running and workout classes at Southwest Recreation Center are just a few examples of great stress relievers. Ten out of 10 recommend Victoria for Total Body Fitness — it’s life-changing.

It’s a rare occurrence for a college student to pick up a book other than a class textbook. Immerse yourself in a good read. You’ll find yourself feeling satisfied and accomplished after such a minor task. Or even just spend time in a bookstore! Inspiration may strike.

5. Try volunteering

It’s in the name: Thanksgiving. The inability to go home for the holiday may seem like the be-all and end-all, but it’s not. Some people have it worse off. All it takes is one reality check to realize that. Give back to your community, and see the difference you can make in just a few hours. Soup kitchens like St. Francis House, GRACE Marketplace and Ronald McDonald House welcome volunteers to help serve meals.

The holidays are a time to relax and be grateful for what you have. There’s always next year!