Managing Stress Levels with Christmas Cheer

December brings lots of things; cold weather, the end of the year, and the holiday season.  For college students, however, one of the most important things December brings is finals season.  After a long four and a half months of putting in every effort for good grades in our classes, we have to muster up the energy to take 3-6 two hour exams, and countless other projects and papers in addition.  Whether your grades are solid or they need to be brought up, finals is almost never going to be a piece of cake.  We would all rather be with our family decorating the tree, making snowmen, or baking holiday foods, but we’re stuck inside the library for another week.

Regardless of school, the holidays can be a difficult time for some people; the nature of the holiday can really exacerbate any family problems or financial stress.  These issues along with academic stress can hit hard, so I wanted to talk about one of my favorite ways to keep the stress at bay while getting in the spirit of the season: my dorm’s section decorating contest!  Each year, the 7 sections in my hall each choose a holiday-related theme with which to decorate their section.  Past themes have been Christmas around the world, the twelve days of Christmas (with each door in the section as a different day), the island of misfit toys (with each section resident as a different toy), Christmas puns (and here’s another idea for decreasing stress—check out these dog puns for a needed laugh!) and Hallmark movies (with each door representing a classic movie).

My section won in 2017, and I can barely describe how fun that experience was—everyone was so motivated, energy was at an all-time high, and the feeling of accomplishment when we won was huge!  This year, my section portrayed the story of the Grinch and Whoville, and my door was covered in pictures of baby Grinch.  Our hallway and lounge was decked out with a Christmas tree, Christmas lights everywhere, wreaths, a fake fireplace, and more.

The most important part of this tradition is not the competition, although we sometimes forget that.  Spending time with your best friends and roommates is already one of the best ways to combat stress, and doing it while united by the holiday season is the best.  The dorm pays for all of our decorations with money we raise in fundraisers and money from the university, so no one has to worry about being unable to pay to make their section look good.  Finally, coming home every day to a beautifully decorated section makes everything you have to do when you get home a little less daunting.

This is a unique opportunity that my roommates and I have due to the dorm community we live in, but there are other ways that you can combat stress with holiday spirit  It takes very little time to go on a drive to see the holiday lights on houses, bake cookies (the Pillbury holiday ones are the easiest in the world!), volunteer or donate food/toys to underprivileged families (doing something good for others will make you feel good too!), or simply play Christmas music while you work.  No matter what you choose, we will all make it through finals and make it home for the holidays, and the idea of that itself is fuel enough for me!

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