It's kind of a given that school is stressful. Homework, tests, and extracurricular activities often have me counting down the days until I get a break. Weekends are great, but extended school breaks are the ultimate light at the end of the tunnel when the going gets tough. 

Of course school breaks are relaxing: you don't have to go to class, you get more time to catch up with friends and spend quality time with family, and sometimes, you get to travel somewhere awesome. Especially if your break involves lounging by a pool or beach, it's easy to look forward to them as time to unwind.

Sometimes, though, break isn't as relaxing as you thought it would be. Seeing extended family can be a source of stress, as can breaking from your everyday routine. Since school breaks are so hyped up, it is easy to feel like your vacation doesn't meet expectations. 

I am definitely one of those people who find school breaks to be a source of stress, and have developed some strategies for keeping it at bay. Of course, everyone responds to stress differently, but these are some things that have worked for me.

1. Create A Routine

For me, one of the most stressful things about break is that I don't have a set routine to follow. Since I'm accustomed to doing the same things everyday and to having lots to do everyday, having nothing that I need to do is overwhelming.

The first couple days of staying in my pajamas all day are awesome, don't get me wrong, but the novelty wears off pretty fast. I get antsy and bored. If I don't purposefully find things for myself to do, I end up scrolling through the same Instagram pictures all day, bored out of my mind. 

When this happens, I brainstorm a list of things I enjoy doing but don't usually have time to do. Usually, these are pretty simple activities that I have all the supplies for, just not the time. 

This seems like a pretty obvious solution to being bored, but the problem is that my list is never very long – my boredom is really just a result of me not having a daily routine.

The good news is that anything can be a routine if you do it regularly. On vacation, my routine doesn't usually involve studying or doing homework, but rather working out, surfing the internet, and eating a similar set of meals. Determining a plan for my time off from school relieves the stress of having unlimited options and no idea what I want to do. 

Having a plan makes me feel purposeful during the day and fulfilled at the end of it, while motivating me to actually do the things I said I would in my time off. Left to my own devices, I would definitely do nothing all day and hate it, so structuring my life is a great way to keep my spirits high and my stress low.

2. Exercise

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Denise Uy

No, you don't have to dedicate all of your free time to ~reforming your lifestyle~, but working out while you're off of school can really help with stress.

Exercise doesn't have to be boring and awful. If you're traveling, going for a walk or a run around a new place can be a great way to get your heart rate up. Also, many vacations come with their own unique forms of exercising, like kayaking, skiing, or hiking. If all you've got is your bedroom or hotel gym, there are plenty of ways to get your sweat on too.

There are lots of reasons why exercise is a helpful strategy when you're on break. First of all, it is an inherent stress reliever – you'll feel better just because you broke a sweat. Moreover, exercise builds self confidence, which will arm you against potentially anxiety-inducing situations. 

On the flip side, working out can be a productive way to escape from stressful situations. If your family is arguing again, or you're feeling anxious about doing nothing, lacing up your shoes and heading to workout will remove you from that situation. Paired with the other benefits, exercise looks like a great solution to break-induced stress.

That said, escaping stress is not a sustainable long-term solution. Hiding from the situation will do nothing to actually solve the problem, so if you're dealing with an anxiety problem or set of stressors that extend beyond the short-term scenario of a school break, you should find other ways to confront it. 

3. Find Someone To Confide In

Molly Gallagher

Not to be mushy, but this is a time to get some support from the people you love. Before you leave for break, talk to someone you trust (a friend, family member, mental health professional, etc.) about the fact that you might need to rant to them while you're away. Having this person will give you an outlet for your emotions and a source of reassurance when things get tough.

Especially in the heat of an argument, texting this person what you ~really~ want to say will help you avoid saying things you'll regret to that one member of your extended family who always pushes your buttons. Also, if you're feeling down on yourself, they can remind you of all the things they appreciate about you.

Keeping in touch with people you might be seeing less over break will help keep you connected to the life you'll be returning to when it is over. It will make both leaving and coming back less abrupt. Friendship is always a good stress reliever, whether you're ranting or just exchanging memes with your best friend. 

4. Keep a Journal

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Jocelyn Hsu

Sometimes, texting a rant isn't an option. You might not want to share your family's drama with outsiders, or maybe you don't feel comfortable expressing your emotions to other people. 

In such situations, a journal can serve a similar purpose. Getting your emotions out of your head and onto paper is a helpful way to manage them – it feels really good to get it all out. Also, problems seem more manageable when you're looking at them on paper than they do in your head. Often, it becomes more obviously what you should do once you write everything down.

A journal is a great place to write down the routine you're trying to establish or plan out your workouts, so it can help you do some of the other stress-reducing strategies as well. 

If you're on a really cool vacation, I highly recommend writing down the highlight reel of each day—it might not seem like it now, but later you'll appreciate having a record of what you did to reminisce about. 

School breaks are supposed to be relaxing, fun, and low-stress. Hopefully, at least one of these strategies will help you achieve those ideals.

If not, understand that it is totally okay to deal with stress in unstructured or overwhelming situations. If anxiety is a long-term problem for you, you might want to consider reaching out to a mental health professional. Anxiety is very real, but a therapist or psychiatrist can help you manage it