Holidays in residence self-care guide

Happy young woman dancing solo

Staying in residence over the holidays? Check out these tips, resources, ideas and more—gift-wrapped just for you.

Go easy on yourself, and remember that taking care of yourself will help you enjoy the holidays and set you up for success in Term 2.

Self-care includes all the activities you do to consciously take care of your physical, mental and emotional health. The resources on this page, from exercise tips and mindfulness apps to creative prompts, counselling and more, will hopefully provide some valuable self-care ideas and support.

On this page

Illustration of workout gear

Staying physically active

Getting regular exercise is important to mental and physical wellbeing.

Keeping your body moving has so many benefits, especially in times of stress. Exercise elevates mood and mental resilience, it helps build a strong immune system, enhances focus, concentration and memory, and it improves good sleep. Try out some of the many great options for staying active, even in small spaces:

  • Sit less. Break up sedentary time by setting a timer/reminder to get up at least once per hour for a short activity break. Ideas include taking a phone call while walking around – inside or outside – dancing, stretching, doing a small chore like making a snack, completing a short online exercise, or having a yoga session.
  • Get a workout in. UBC Recreation offers a ton of physical recreation opportunities. Check out their Get Moving Programs for free and low barrier activities suitable for all fitness levels.
  • Try something new and get creative! Think of this change in routine as an opportunity to explore different avenues such as learning how to juggle or taking up Tai Chi.

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, as well as muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week. Any activity is better than none and more activity provides more physical and mental health benefits.

Illustration of retro iPod and headphones

Staying mentally healthy

Top tips include connecting with others, eating healthy foods, staying as active as possible, getting plenty of rest, and finding satisfying ways to stay occupied.

  • Stay informed, but not overwhelmed. Over-indulging in news from multiple sources can lead to heightened anxiety. Instead, focus on getting helpful information from trusted sources and limit your intake.
  • Communicate and stay connected. Staying in contact with other people not only staves off boredom, but it is also critical for minimizing the sense of isolation. Check in with friends and family every day, and make use of UBC’s health and 24/7 counselling resources if you’re feeling off-kilter.
  • Create and follow routines, incorporating satisfying activities that leave you feeling recharged and/or give you a sense of purpose, productivity and accomplishment.

UBC Mental Health Supports

  • UBC Wellbeing’s Thrive 5. Learn how to promote a healthy mind and body with the Thrive 5 by UBC Wellbeing.
  • Counselling Services. If you’re feeling persistently stressed, anxious, or sad, you can book a virtual or phone appointment with a wellness advisor or counsellor. Note that UBC Counselling Services will be closed from noon on December 22, 2023 to January 2, 2024.
  • Understand stress and the stress response. Explore a variety of articles and resources that will guide you in managing your mental health.
  • Mindfulness apps worthy of your attention. Five FREE mindfulness apps to download today to help pass the time.
  • Here2Talk. Get started with free, 24/7 single-session counselling by phone or online chat for all UBC students, no matter where you are in the world.

Illustration of mobile phone with the words "call someone you love"

Self-nurturing tips

Want to take it a little deeper? See if you can adjust your mindset to thinking of this time not as forced isolation, but as a chance to recharge, reset and indulge in some well-deserved self-nurturing.

  • Be kind to yourself. It’s OK if you’re not “making the most” of the winter break or you’re wondering how that baking project produced stones instead of scones. Go easy on yourself and celebrate the small wins, like getting out for a walk or preparing a healthy meal. Remind yourself that even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes, you’re doing your best. Go even deeper with these self-compassion practices and exercises.
  • Focus on what you can control. This might be a good time to remember the serenity prayer: to have the serenity to accept the things you can’t change, to have the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
  • Treat it like an experiment. Put your ego aside, and get curious about the gifts of these strange times.
  • Indulge in imaginative self-reflection. Being around other people keeps us being who we’ve always been, because that’s who they expect to see, and we respond to their expectations. When there’s nobody around to have an opinion, take some time to think about and imagine who you want to be in the long-term future.
  • Practice gratitude. There is always something to be grateful for, and regularly practicing gratitude can bring a significant boost to our mental health. One way to keep track of what we’re grateful for is to start a gratitude journal.

Productive Solitude

Resources from UBC’s Counsellors in Residence.

Over the winter break, we suspect you may find extra time on your hands! Here are some ideas for helping you find a bit of productive solitude and fostering intentional reflection, creativity and self-development.

Let us know if you have any other ideas for productive solitude. Email us at Learn more about UBC’s Counsellors in Residence.


Instead of recommending specific shows, here are some approaches for finding some new ones!

  • Explore podcasts that provide a different perspective.
  • Listen to shows that you think will make you laugh and smile.
  • Find shows that take you on a journey.


Journal activities


  • Paint a kindness rock to place in a park or on someone’s doorstep.
  • Make cards to send to a senior centre.
  • Leave a surprise – flowers, homemade cookies, a nice note – on a neighbour’s doorstep.
  • Make a zentangle. These fun little drawings are a great tool for letting go and helping reduce stress.
  • Paint the different sides of yourself. In this project, paint the different aspects of your personality, giving each a visual representation. Paint as many or as few as you like.
  • Make a drawing related to a quote you like. Take the words of wisdom from someone else and turn them into something visually inspiring.
  • Take photographs of things you think are beautiful. No one else has to like them but you. Print and frame them, if you like, to have constant reminders of the beautiful things in life.


Free courses

Just in case you still feel like studying 😉

Harvard University

The Path to Happiness: What Chinese Philosophy Teaches Us about the Good Life

Why should we care about Confucius? Explore ancient Chinese philosophy, ethics, and political theory to challenge your assumptions of what it means to be happy, live a meaningful life, and change the world.

Yale University

The Science of Wellbeing

In this course you will engage in a series of challenges designed to increase your own happiness and build more productive habits. As preparation for these tasks, Professor Laurie Santos reveals misconceptions about happiness, annoying features of the mind that lead us to think the way we do, and the research that can help us change. You will ultimately be prepared to successfully incorporate a specific wellness activity into your life.