The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
As reading week approaches, there are mixed feelings on campus about students returning home. You may miss your family and are looking forward to seeing them, but sometimes it can be difficult to return to a space where your loved ones push your buttons, and your new friends feel so far away. While family is important, home is a unique environment for everyone and the reconnection with your family combined with the decrease of your newfound independence can often be harmful to your mental health. To assist in combating this, here are some ways to prioritize your mental health if you are venturing home this reading week.
1. Set Boundaries for Yourself
Before your trip home, try to be mindful and reflect on the boundaries you would like to put in place to protect your mental health at home. This could include declining to spend time with relatives that make you uncomfortable, calling out individuals that speak over you or make condescending comments and explaining to your family what you hope to accomplish during the week. This way, you can give them an idea of what to expect from you, whether that means you will be holed up studying or out socializing with friends for a large portion of the week.
It is one thing to set these boundaries and goals, and it is another to follow through on them. You may find it helpful to write them down to refer to later on. When writing them out, you may also want to include an example of previous events where these boundaries were crossed and how they affected you. This is useful to remind you to stand up for yourself and not accept the crossing of boundaries, even if it is by your loved ones.
2. Take Plenty of Breaks
Whether this is at your local library to get some actual reading done during reading week (truly a shocking concept), going on walks to enjoy the changing fall leaves or simply taking some time for a catnap, dedicating time to rest and recuperate is essential. A mental health break can look different to every individual. If extended family or holiday plans are overwhelming you, a break could also be a small family movie night or a board game with siblings. Despite the name, reading week really is an opportunity to relax and re-energize in addition to catching up or working ahead on coursework. Be sure to make time for activities you enjoy so as not to overwhelm yourself. A change in scenery, physical activity and fresh air all help increase your serotonin levels, which in turn helps you stay calm and relaxed with a better night’s sleep.
3. Organize Plans with your Friends Beforehand
While spontaneous social outings are a fun break from home, having plans in place will allow you to better visualize how your time is being spent. Plans will also give you something concrete to look forward to when it may feel like you’re stuck in a rut at home. Friends will help boost your mood and can act as a support system if you need to vent a little about your nosey aunt or a sibling’s annoying tendencies. Keep in mind though that your friends have their own mental burdens and sometimes you need a professional by your side. It may be worth planning and scheduling an appointment ahead of time with your counsellor or therapist during reading week to address issues that your friends may not be able to assist, within the capacity that you need.
4. Cut Your Visit Short
If you are really struggling with being back home, consider cutting your visit short. Maybe you are finding it difficult to concentrate on work or you are really missing your community back in Waterloo. There is no shame in deciding that you have had your fair share of family time and would really like to get back to your university environment, but this may be difficult to convey to your loved ones. Being honest can help address recurring issues and potentially create a stronger foundation for you and your family. That being said, maybe you have already tried the honesty card or maybe you would just prefer to spare their feelings. If that is the case, try reflecting on how you might be able to address this in a manner that fits the situation and ultimately supports your mental well-being.
The goal of this article is to assist you in navigating reading week in a way that is best for you and your mental health. No situation is the same, so it is important to proceed with what best suits your needs and makes you comfortable. I hope you find these tips helpful for reading week and future returns home. Even if these tips aren’t applicable to you or your environment, I hope that you remember that you and your mental health are valued and important.
Wishing everyone a relaxing and enjoyable fall reading week!