It’s just that time of year. It’s as if professors had a collective meeting and decided to schedule exams during one specific week. They seemingly came together and unanimously agreed on a week to make all essays, all presentations and all projects due. This meeting is obviously fake but that’s how students feel in the week leading up to Thanksgiving Break. They’re overloaded with work and stress. It makes you think, “what would I do without a break?” 

Forever thankful for our RAs for making this celebration! Photo by Madigan Gallagher.

It’s a completely valid question in terms of self-care and mental health, and should be broken down into two parts. The first part seems obvious in that any break from work helps with recovery, relaxation and the ability to destress. Issues with work are difficult to deal with when they’re close and in your face. That’s why taking a step back makes it easier to gain clarity and mental stability. 

The holidays are always better when surrounded by the people you love. Photo by Madigan Gallagher.

But that leads us to part two, because this isn’t just any break from work, it’s Thanksgiving Break. This is a time when families come together, friends express gratitude and there’s just a general sense of wholesome thanks. Thanksgiving isn’t just a break, but a time to take advantage of, taking part in self care and mental recovery. The simple act of expressing gratitude is an outlet to improve mental health. There’s not a more fitting time to do so. One of the very purposes of Thanksgiving is to express gratitude. It’s a way of promoting empathy and toning down levels of aggression. Often times people have an “inner voice,” influencing unhealthy behavior and increasing stress.Thanksgiving weakens that voice, as gratitude is a powerful force that fosters a more positive mindset.   

Gratitude isn’t simply an inner feeling. It very much so leaks out and affects others as well. Making emotional connections with others is another way of creating an enhanced positive mental state. The idea of being a part of something larger than yourself allows for a more significant sense of purpose. That purpose manifests itself into mental fulfillment. But at an even more basic level, gratitude leads to increased social interactions. Through a more grateful mindset, those interactions are deep and  personal. Surface-level interactions are generally not fulfilling or meaningful. But on the flipside, personal interactions foster mental fulfillment and promote self care.

So while this time of year is filled with work and stress, Thanksgiving Break allows you to step back and take a breath. Expressing gratitude among family and friends is a sort of therapy, enhancing mental health and developing human connections.    

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