By Jennifer Hartmann 

The winter break is approaching, and these past couple of weeks I’ve found myself more stressed about the break than excited. This year in particular, I’m feeling a lot of pressure to make up for last year, when we couldn’t gather with family and friends. As I started talk to other people, I realized that I am not alone in feeling this way. There seems to be so many obligations to pack into a short break –family members to see, friends to catch up with, shopping, wrapping, children and oh, I need to squeeze in time to be alone and rest up so I can return to work in the new year feeling recharged.  

If you are feeling this way, know you are not alone! I decided to ask some friends and teachers how they plan to recharge and find joy over the break – some live alone, some with young kids, some with older kids, some who plan to travel, some who plan to stay home. Here’s how they plan to use their breaks to recharge.  

I am leaving town, going to spend time with my family. We are going to go hiking, tour some wineries, and do lots of activities that are NOT indoors.  


What I’m most looking forward to is just knowing that there’s no schedule. I’m really excited that my kids and I will not be on a schedule – we can make Christmas cookies and do holiday stuff together when we want to. We aren’t traveling anywhere, and we plan to just spend time together as a family on our own timetable.  


For the first two days, I’m just going to lay on the couch and watch TV. I just need to rest. Then on the next day, I am going to clean. Having time first to rest and then clean will set me up and give me what I need to feel good about connecting with my family and spending time with others.  


I am going to read books that have nothing to do with school. I am going to completely unplug from work and just take time to read.  


I am going to do some painting with my wife, drink some wine, relax and have fun connecting and spending time together.  


I am going to take naps. I’m going to listen to my body. If I need to rest, I will rest. I am going to plan time to walk outside, to connect with friends and family. If I have time, I’ll purge my closet. But I probably won’t. And that’s okay.  


I know with two young kids, when they’re out of school/daycare, it’s a lot more chaotic. I probably won’t be able to rest on the couch or read all day. But I can also make all the things I have to do a little less stressful. One thing I like to do is carry a hot beverage, like decaf coffee, tea or hot chocolate, as I do the bedtime routine. Something about holding a hot drink keeps me present and grounded. Or I’ll play fun music while we clean up the house. I can be realistic that breaks from school are probably even more chaotic, but when I plan for it, I can make it less stressful.  


After having these conversations, I started to get more excited about how I wanted to set boundaries and use my time. I appreciated their honesty. I may not get a lot of alone time but the reminder that life still has to happen over the break – we still have to scrub bathrooms and buy groceries. But it’s also a brief window of time before we return to the real world in the new year where we can pause and do things differently. 

After jotting down notes from all of these conversations, I noticed that their answers really boiled down to four categories:  

1. Connection with others 

2. Down time 

3. Time in nature 

4. Finding joy in little moments 

Everyone is approaching the break differently – some plan to rest, some plan to travel and do activities, some seek alone time, others seek connection. There’s no right way to do it. So what does that look like for me? I know that I need to prioritize these things in order to have a restful break. So I need to find the right balance of connection with others and down time. For me, that means having boundaries and saying no when I need to, even when it’s hard.  

I know being outside in nature improves my mental health. So I’ll plan to take a walk most days of the break, and maybe I’ll go for a hike with my family. If the weather isn’t nice enough to be outside, I’ll make sure I’m intentional about caring for my house plants and opening up the blinds to make sure I’m at least getting daylight in the house. 

The winter break will look different for everyone. Knowing yourself is key. It’s important to know what you like, what recharges you, and what will help you get through the holidays.  

So this break, I’ll be using all of the advice I received from my colleagues and friends to connect with others, have down time, be in nature, and find the joy in the little moments. I hope all of you find a way to do the same. 

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