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College students are home for the holidays – here’s how to help them through the stress of the pandemic

Published: December 7, 2020

The students in your life might be home for winter break (if their campus had in-person classes this fall), but what happens when they come home more stressed than when they left because of COVID-19?

Change can be stressful, and the “normal” college experience your student is used to has looked very different this semester – online classes, wearing masks in the library or dining hall, and not being able to attend many social gatherings. On top of that, there are the regular stressors of a college student: exams, grades, and interpersonal relationships.

If you find yourself struggling to connect with your student this holiday season, know you’re not alone. And the good news is that there are things you can do as a family to foster mental health and wellbeing, which can ultimately bring your family closer together.

Structure: The college student in your life might feel disoriented due to all the changes over the past year. Establishing a solid structure at home can be helpful. Getting up and going to bed at the same time each day, giving them space when they need it, and doing leisure activities at a set time every day can help foster a sense of normalcy.

Health: When it comes to stress, a balanced diet, regular exercise routine, and healthy sleep cycle can make a huge difference. Eating a diet full of healthy foods like leafy greens, whole grains, and lean protein can kick stress to the curb. And according to experts, as little as five minutes of exercise a day can help reduce stress. Finally, according to the National Sleep Foundation, young adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep a night, which can dramatically reduce stress and improve wellbeing. Holiday break is a perfect time to catch up on sleep for young adults.

Happiness: While students can’t do what they’re used to over winter break, like big holiday gatherings, shopping trips, or traveling, there are still things they can do to boost happiness. Calling family friends or neighbors for a virtual get-together, crafting, cooking, doing a puzzle, or watching a movie are all indoor activities the whole family can participate in.

And remember, if you’ve noticed your child turning to excessive gaming, fantasy sports play, or betting games to reduce the stress of the pandemic, they might be at-risk. Head to for more information on the signs of youth gambling and how to get the child in your life help if they need it.

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