What You Should REALLY Do Over Thanksgiving Break

Ah, Thanksgiving break — that much needed extra long weekend that follows midterm exams, the busiest few months at the office, and week after week of all work and no play, or sleep for that matter. It's four days meant for eating, relaxing, and catching up with friends and family, but how you want to spend time on Thanksgiving break versus how you should spend time on Thanksgiving break are often two very different things.

Every year, it's the same internal battle. You feel like you've earned some time off, so the idea of using your Thanksgiving break to be productive is something your exhausted mind, body, and soul full-heartedly resist. You would much rather catch up with old friends, sleep until lunch time, and raid your parent's fridge than anything else, so when your mom asks you whether or not you have school work this weekend, you simultaneously laugh and cringe. You know what you should be doing, but it's nothing like what you want to be doing.

But just because it's break doesn't mean these four days are going to be the lazy escape of your dreams. You have to decide: will you spend Thanksgiving break the way you want to, or the way you should? The struggle is real. Here's how your expectations versus reality are likely to stack up.

1. See Your Loved Ones

What You Want to Do: Catch up with all of your friends who, since last Thanksgiving, you have only seen via social media stalking. If you're visiting your hometown, you probably want to get your high school friends together and visit some old stomping grounds, only this time, with some booze in hand. Screw Thanksgiving, you're more interested in Friendsgiving.

What You Should Do: Spend quality time with the family. Thanksgiving is, after all, a time for family togetherness, and even if you and your siblings don't always get along, you should at least try. Sure, your relatives will keep asking you about your future, why you don't have a boyfriend, and what you plan to "do with your life," but it's only because they love you. Don't worry, it's only four days. You can handle it.

2. Enjoy Some Down Time

What You Want to Do: Sit on the couch (or, better yet, in your childhood bedroom), pig out on junk food from your parents' pantry, and watch every episode of your favorite show that has ever been made.

What You Should Do: Play board games with the family, read, do a puzzle — basically anything that gives your eyes and your computer a break from constant streaming. If you're honest with yourself, you know you watch TV almost every day after work, so give yourself some time to unplug. With all your free time, you can finally settle who the best Monopoly player is, spend time with your family, or scratch the surface of your TBR pile. Your favorite shows will still be there when you get back.

3. Take Advantage Of The Fall Weather

What You Want to Do: Wear sweats 24/7, because damn, it's cold. The long fall weekend is the perfect reason to stay inside, bundle up in comfortable clothes, sip spiked hot cider, and cuddle under a warm, fuzzy blanket. The trees look pretty enough from the window.

What You Should Do: Go outside. No really, winter is coming, so you should enjoy the mild weather while it lasts. Go for a walk at your local park, or at least take the family dog for a walk. Soon enough, you will be scratching at the walls, wishing you weren't barricaded in your house by piles and piles of snow.

4. Catch Up On Rest

What You Want to Do: Sleep, all day every day. Except for dinner — you definitely want to be woken up for dinner.

What You Should Do: Go to bed early, and make sure you get more than your typical five hours of sleep. Life is crazy, and whether you're balancing a full class schedule or a full-time job, you probably don't get enough sleep most nights. Take advantage of the downtime, and get a few good nights of rest, but don't sleep through break entirely. There are too many people to see, and too many leftover sandwiches to eat for 24/7 napping.

5. Get A Jump Start On Holiday Shopping

What You Want to Do: Fill up your online shopping carts with presents for yourself. Happy early holidays to you, and you didn't even have to leave the couch (which you sit on while still wearing your pajamas).

What You Should Do: Take advantage of the in-store deals, and maybe clock some quality shopping time with your mom while you're at it. If Black Friday seems intimidating, you can still find plenty of great sales throughout the holiday weekend (including Small Business Saturday) without dealing with the early morning insanity. With the time and money you save by getting your holiday shopping done early, you might even be able to get yourself something special for Cyber Monday.

6. Straighten Out Your Academics

What You Want to Do: Ignore your school email address and all things class-related. Seriously, you don't even want to hear the phrase "comparative literature." Midterms sucked the life out of you, and you just want to pretend you're still young and responsibility-free.

What You Should Do: Get ahead on school work. Yes, it's nice to have a few days without class, but once you get back to campus, finals will come faster than you think. Take the extra time you have to organize your study guides, lay out your final essays, or finish some reading. It might cut into your vacation time now, but it will make the rest of your semester so much more bearable.

7. Have A Fun Night Out

What You Want to Do: Go to your local bar still wearing your yoga pants, order $3 happy hour drinks, and get hometown-wasted. OK, even that's pushing it. You really want to get a big bottle of wine and drink at home, alone, in front of the TV. Going out is for suckers.

What You Should Do: Take advantage of the fact your friends, your family, and you have free time at the same time, and make a night of it. Whether it's drinks the night before Thanksgiving, which is the tradition in my family, or dinner sometime over the weekend, you should really enjoy an evening out on the town with people you love, but are probably too busy to see otherwise.

8. Enjoy Home-Cooked Meals

What You Want to Do: Eat all of your parents' food, and try and convince your parents to make you breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Oh, and snacks — can't forget about the snacks.

What You Should Do: Finally learn your family's secret recipes. Since your mom and dad will probably be busy in the kitchen making Thanksgiving dinner anyways, you should probably take advantage of the free cooking lessons. It will give you a chance to spend some quality time with the family, and pick up a few kitchen skills along the way.

For more Thanksgiving ideas, check out Bustle on YouTube.

Image: Todd Baker/flickr; Giphy (8)