After completing four midterms the week before spring break, I was excited for the opportunity to rest. I kept telling myself that I just had to get through this week, and I would be fine once it was over.
By the end of that week though, I was of course mentally and physically exhausted after completing all of those exams and essays in such a short period of time. The hardest part was that I had multiple assignments due on the same day, so even with proper time management, it was still difficult to feel fully prepared for all of them.
After that especially stressful week, I went home with one of my roommates for spring break. I was grateful to be able to leave Grounds for some time, even if it was just a few hours away. While I was packing, I knew I had to bring my laptop and books because there was a possibility that I would do some work during the break. I actually wanted to take some time over break to catch up on some assignments and work on others that were due in the next few weeks. I even told my supervisors for my internship with the Education Abroad Office that I could be available to do any work they needed me to do.
As a result, I ended up working for six hours for my internship. I also opened up a new document for an assignment that was due the week after break — though I blankly stared at it over the course of several days. It turned out that I had no motivation to do homework that was due in the near future, even though it would lighten my workload in the weeks following spring break — I just felt tired. However, these assignments were constantly on my mind, and I found that I couldn’t distance myself from school or work.
I know this is quite contradictory — to want to rest, but to also want to do additional work. But with this break that’s built into the middle of the semester, it feels unwise to not take advantage of that time to do more. When I returned to Grounds, several people I spoke to said they didn’t do the work they had intended on doing over spring break and were now more stressed than they were before break had started. I quickly realized my experience with this conflict isn’t unique. Many students feel pressure to constantly work even if it means sacrificing a restful spring break. Furthermore, we often feel guilty or regretful if we choose to actually step away from our school or work responsibilities and actually take a break. As a result, we feel as though we’ve lost momentum and lack motivation after break because we had the possibility of relaxing, whether or not it seemed attainable to us.
All of this is just a symptom of the highly competitive academic environment we all have to learn to navigate — balancing our desire to be productive, while also taking time to rest and recharge. We’re approaching the part of the semester where many students feel burnt out — it’s common for students to prioritize their performance in school over their wellbeing. This can be seen when students pull all-nighters, neglecting sleep for the sake of completing an assignment. Habits such as pulling all-nighters take a mental and physical toll that can become dangerous, as the lack of sleep paired with the overwhelming amounts of stress can manifest themselves into depression or anxiety.
Last year, rather than having a week off for spring break, we had a series of wellness days planned throughout the semester. A random Wednesday off meant students could do their readings or assignments for Thursday or Friday. Whether it’s a day or a week, many students feel that any amount of time off is an opportunity to continue working. However, it’s important for students to have a designated time to rest.
But even more importantly, we must learn to carve out time to take breaks when we do need some time to relax. The form of relaxation is different for every person, but everyone needs time to rest. We might have to reframe the expectations we have for ourselves to create a nurturing relationship with our academics. With the summer approaching, I encourage you to find time to rest in the midst of summer classes, jobs and internships — and become comfortable with not being productive all the time. We all deserve it.