How to Use Your Spring Break to Break Stressful Habits

College is stressful. No truer three words have been spoken – and it’s a well-known fact that stress breeds bad habits. It’s a vicious cycle of stress, bad habit develops, that bad habit causes more stress, and around and around we go. Enter Spring Break – a blissful week of no classes, no assignments, no course responsibilities. Especially given that Stress Awareness Month is right around the corner in April, let’s take this break to break some of those stressful habits and reset for the next semester half.

Relaxed student woman with red laptop breathing fresh air sitting at a desk at home

Welcome to Spring Break Week Dolphins!

We all know being a college student can be stressful, and juggling school, work, and day-to-day life can cause some of us to form pretty stressful habits. One of the most common stressful habits Coastline Mental Health Therapist, Justin Bain, sees in college students is busyness.

“…It is actually common for students who are already busy to make themselves even busier, sometimes rooted in a feeling of not doing enough; ironically, adding more to their plate can make them less effective at doing a few things well instead,” Justin says.

Along with task avoidance, time management difficulties, and other stressful habits, spring break is a nice reprieve from these stressful situations and allows us to relax and reset before entering the final stretch of the school year!

However, even though this is a week of relaxation, and should remain so, it doesn’t exactly make these habits go away, and the stress of having to go back to regularly scheduled programming where these habits exist can fill us with even more dread.

So, why not work through these habits during your week of relaxation? Of course, don’t purposely put yourself in stressful situations just to try breaking through stressful habits. Yet, doing little things throughout your spring break can prepare you to enter the final two months of school, increase productivity, and lower stress levels.

So, unclench your jaw, relax your shoulders, and decompress as you jump into a stress-free week starting with a brief guide on how to use your Spring Break to break those stressful habits, with insightful anecdotes from Mental Health Therapist, Justin Bain!

Mental Health Services @ Coastline

What Triggers Your Stressful Habit?

Do you procrastinate on assignments until the night before or the morning of their due date? Overspend while trying to save up? Avoid doing household chores until they pile up to an unmanageable size? Doomscrolling the day away.

We’ve all been there, trust me, and sometimes, we don’t even realize it’s the root of our stress because we’ve been practicing these habits for so long. So, how do you even begin to break a stressful habit if you’re practicing the habit before you even realize it?

Try to identify what triggers it!

The best way to identify your triggers is to figure out what leads up to the habit! What triggers procrastination for you? Maybe it’s the mere idea of writing an essay that fills you with fear of not doing well, which leads you to leave it until the night before (been there!). Or maybe you find yourself clicking add to cart after a bad day when you made a goal to start saving up (guilty of this too!).

burnout and stressed girl in coffee shop tired from learning on computer and books

Whatever it is, becoming aware of your triggers allows you to catch the habit before you fall into it!

Another important part is identifying where or how you feel the stress, says Justin.

“Stress impacts us on multiple levels: physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally…the list goes on! Taking time to recognize where you feel stress impacting you the most is always a good place to start.

If you are feeling the stress physically, consider taking some deep breaths or going for a walk. If you are feeling relational stress, consider taking some space from each other or having a conversation into a new, neutral environment.

When stress is taking up your thoughts and distracting your focus, make some time to write down those thoughts so they can live on paper and be tangibly viewed with your eyes, and not only live inside your head. The important part is to be creative and not limit yourself to only one option.”

Portrait of young smiling Asian man in glasses using laptop sitting at desk, writing in notebook

Pinpoint Your Goal and Create a Plan

When wanting to break stressful habits, having a clear goal for wanting to break the stressful habit, and having a plan on how you will do so, gives you a clear roadmap to where you want to be and will be conducive to your habit-breaking success!

Say your goal is to start working on assignments earlier so you aren’t stressing out the night before they are due. Your plan might look like practicing mindfulness exercises to get you in the right head space before beginning those assignments or downloading habit tracker apps to keep a record of your progress.

While crafting your plan, be sure it’s a plan that won’t stress or burn you out in the process!

Justin states, “Take breaks! If something is stressful, it likely requires a lot of energy and burns you out faster than a normal task. It is better to break down a stressful task into a short, 10-minute chunk and see a small amount of success than trying to tackle a 5+ hour task and see no productivity at all.”

student relaxing drinking coffee sitting and breathing at home

Create A Routine

So, you know what triggers your stressful habit, you pinpointed a goal, and made a plan, now what do you do? Create a routine enforcing healthier, stress-free habits!

It doesn’t have to be strenuous, simply starting your morning without scrolling through social media or making an iced coffee at home in lieu of your morning coffee run are examples of small ways to start breaking out of stressful habits during this week!

According to Justin, “Creating and sticking to a schedule can be very helpful when trying to break old habits and make new ones. Certainly, spring break is a unique time and the flexibility and space away from classes should be taken advantage of; still, having at least some structure such as sticking to consistent meal times, waking up at a similar time, or having some exercise planned can be a helpful way to take care of yourself.”

Enlist Your Family and Friends

Having a support network while breaking habits is so important and can give you the encouragement you need to keep going!

Teenager couple sitting on the stairs. Girlfriend trying to cheer up and console sad hispanic boyfriend.

Do you want to replace your screen time with getting outside more? Gather your friends and take a walk on the beach! Trying to save money instead of going out? Have a home-cooked dinner party!

By letting friends and family in on your goal, communicating your needs, and what you’re striving towards, you have other people holding you accountable, and rooting for your success. You may also find that they have habits they want to break too and might want to join you on your journey!

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Take Care of Yourself

It’s still spring break! Not allowing yourself to relax or rest when needed is also a stressful habit, and overworking yourself can make habit-breaking even more difficult.

Make sure to take care of yourself and give yourself grace! Try turning off anxiety-inducing app notifications, unplug from social media, maybe give yourself an at-home spa day, or start up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try—whatever you do, ensure its something you enjoy!

Justin states, “One main roadblock I see in terms of students being held back from breaking bad habits is a lack of taking care of themselves. Sometimes students believe they have to work hard in order to earn the space to take care of themselves, but I think this is usually in the wrong order.

Most of the time we need to be taking care of ourselves well in order to have both the insight and energy to break bad habits—but if we are too burned out, we likely won't be able to even realize what the problem is in the first place.”

Young man with ginger fluffy cat lying on a carpet

One Last Thing!

Remember, habit-breaking isn’t linear and your effort to try, along with healthily breaking the habit, is what’s most important. Don’t beat yourself up over slip-ups, or your process—breaking out of a behavior you’ve been enacting for a long time is hard, but you can do it!

Do your best and enjoy your spring break!

And if you find yourself needing extra support, Coastline’s Student Mental Health Services are here for you!

“Ultimately, remember that everyone is different and therefore everyone's self-care needs are different," reminds Justin. "Look to others to learn how they take care of themselves, but don't compare or limit yourself to only one person—remember that your needs could be different, and don't need to look exactly the same as everyone else!”

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