The Importance of Catching a break (a rant)

I have really been struggling over the past few quarters. I’ve been having a hard time getting my work done, finding motivation, getting out of bed and so on. I’ve had a hard time finding the reason as to why I’m doing all of this, and sometimes just simply wanting to put an end to school because it’s just been too stressful. One particular class was so stressful that I threw the textbook across the room with enough force that it tore the hard cover off it, including the first ten pages of it. This is ridiculous.

However, this quarter I’ve realized that not only have I been excited for my classes (despite that they’re all reading intensive, and with the exception of the day I was barely-functional-sick), but I’ve been able continue reading everything when I want, opposed to forcing myself to do this. This isn’t the only thing I’ve been able to do–I’ve been more active with my blog (have you noticed??). I’m responding to other bloggers, actually reading through articles opposed to just skimming the titles, and thinking about the content.

What is the difference? The days are shorter and darker. The weather is chilly and making threats at me, and I don’t see daylight until I’m parking my car on campus. These are all signals which tell me to hibernate, not become more mentally active!

I finally figured it out.

It’s because I caught a break. A long one, at that.

During the summer quarter of 2014, I went through a terrible breakup, and lost everything that I had come to believe was true. I lost my house, the person I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with, my transportation, and a huge chunk of a social circle. I also lost my independence–which is huge for me, because I hate being reliant on anyone else but me. So I was under quite a bit of stress.

When the quarter ended, I had three weeks until the following quarter. I practiced escapism. I ran away from Bellingham and spent a lot of time staying with some one in Seattle, trying to put as much distance as I could between my emotions and me. However, I was still processing, I was still hurting, and I was still angry. This is all related to stress. I still had anxiety attacks, and still couldn’t shut my mind off from it’s cyclical pattern that brought me back to the same pain I felt on the day when I was left behind.

Fall quarter began, through which I worked hard. Then I had a full five weeks off over Christmas. Again, I spent a lot of my time in Seattle, trying to escape. I spent time trying to process my separation, and with little luck. And what’s more, I battled my own depression which generally comes up during the winter. There is no rest here. Only stress.

Winter, Spring and Summer quarters were only separated by ten days. This was just enough to wind down, though not enough time to do any actual relaxing. I was still working on Hubpages for the writing center, I was still helping other people out with their writing as well as trying to get my own writing done. I dealt with another separation, which caused me more stress, and sent me further into a depression.

However, during this last break, I had four weeks where I wasn’t hurting, I didn’t have to think, and I was somewhat independent. Sure my car caused me some stress, but thanks to my family, it was fairly minimal in comparison. I had the chance to relax. So much so that I was bored.

Let me repeat that: I was bored.

I don’t remember the last time I experienced a continuation of that. I sat and watched copious amounts of Netflix and Game of Thrones. I read a book. I saw friends. but all the television, book-reading, and friends couldn’t take up all the time I had on my hands, and I was bored.

What’s the result of that?

I was ready when I came back to school. So much so that I am full of academic beans. I want to read, I want to learn, I want to engage, and I’m excited about all of it.

So what’s the message here? Mostly that between quarters, there needs to be more than ten days. There’s a lot that contributed to my stress and inability to truly relax, but I do think that three quarters in a row with only ten days off is ridiculous. Students go through more stress than just their classes. Life takes hold and we need more than just a week and a weekend to get over 75% of our stress and relax and reach homeostasis. This is essential.

So, I do hope schools see this and consider how they section their quarters. It does matter. We don’t need five weeks off over Christmas. We don’t need four weeks between summer and fall quarters. If we took two weeks from Christmas break, and a week from summer break, we could make those ten-day breaks into 17 day breaks and have happier, more enthusiastic, capable students. Just a thought.

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2 thoughts on “The Importance of Catching a break (a rant)

  1. I’m glad you’re feeling better with those much-needed breaks. When I went away to Europe this past summer, I realized how important breaks are to our health, well-being and happiness. Unfortunately, I find that Western societies like to run on stress but in the end it makes us less productive. I agree that there should be more of a work-life balance in the education system. It’s kind of hectic to give students homework and studying over their breaks because it takes away from the enjoyment and time on their vacation. I also get like that during the fall/winter months, I think I’m affected mood-wise by the weather and it’s hard to remember self-care because you just want to hibernate like a bear 🙂 Best of luck in your academic year.

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  2. I think it makes perfect sense to have more breaks, that are shorter for the academic year, because it all seems extremely stressful and there is a risk of burnout for students.

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