Dragana: With the fall semester having ended and the spring semester approaching, it can be difficult to take some time to just relax and not worry about work or school. Oftentimes we feel like we need to work, to be productive or we are doing grad school wrong. While some students outside of the humanities are not able to take proper time off, think of those who work in research labs, those of us that have a break tend to struggle with it. How do I relax and stop looking for work? Is it okay to silence the emails? Is my advisor going to be okay with me taking a break? These are some of the questions that I’ve asked myself and to be honest there have been moments when I just want a break and don’t care, but there is always this voice in the back of my mind telling me that I need to be doing something school related. While the pressure to do well and be productive is still there, I know that I need a rest.
At the end of the semester I could feel myself burning out. I was working hard to write my final papers and once I was done, I didn’t know what to do. I had all of this free time now and what did I do? I waited around for one of my papers to be graded so that I could see if I wanted to submit it for a future conference. Instead of taking the time to relax and clear my mind, I was busy thinking about my paper and whether it was good enough. My professor ended up grading it fairly quickly and I submitted it for that conference. After that, I told myself that I was going to take the remaining time for myself.
I allowed myself to be lazy. I watched some shows on Netflix. Re-watched some movies that I love. Most importantly, I gave myself a week or so to forget about school and my work. it felt great. Sometimes we become so focused on work that we forget to give ourselves a proper rest. If we keep pushing ourselves to work without a break, our work is going to struggle. Knowing when to take a break is very important because it gives you and your body a break from all of the pressure that you may be feeling. As the end of my winter break comes to a close, I am still relaxing and enjoying my free time. I know that once the spring semester starts I will be busy and most likely won’t have a proper break for a while. I hope that other students will allow themselves to take a week, or a few days at least, to just forget about school and the responsibilities that await them. Know that it is okay to take a break and recharge yourself. Work can wait, your mental health cannot.
Chelsi: Academia tries to pull a very mean trick on its students. Anytime a break is written on the calendar, such as Thanksgiving break, Winter break, Spring break, etc., we are told that those are prime moments to get some work done. There’s always another conference, another paper to edit to try to publish, and another language that you should know. It does not particularly help that grad school and fellowship applications end up due at this time.
I spent the first weeks of December compiling a list of fellowships I should apply to for the summer. Then I remembered that the idea that I should be working on my break is actually a huge scam. This fall semester which had the normal challenges of grad school, but also extra challenges due to COVID. I am tired of listening to professors and colleagues either telling me how much I should be doing or how stressed they are because they haven’t done anything. I did not plan on reading any books or furthering my research or planning for my future. I have an email from my advisor still sitting unanswered in my inbox, that I will get to when the semester begins. It’s called a break and I will take the break. It does not make me lazy, or a slacker; it only means that I want to take care of myself and use the time as intended. There should be no further discussion past that.
Clayton: Graduate school has a habit of burning out students. A long semester of research, writing papers, classes, and other academic responsibilities is enough to drive up anyone’s blood pressure. That’s why breaks of any kind during the semester are a necessity for every student to make sure that you stay fresh and on top of your work, and to just keep from getting overloaded. That’s why whenever an extended break comes up during the semester, it is important to take a little bit of time to decompress. I would typically try to read something that was unrelated to my major focus or go to a movie theater. Both allowed me to turn off my academic brain for a while and enjoy something that was not related to any of my work. It’s important to find these little distractions for yourself, whatever they may be, in order to allow yourself to relax when you have the opportunity.
While the major breaks are the ones everyone anticipates and looks forward too, they are unfortunately few and far between, especially in the spring. A small way I would try to de-stress when there was no break was to set aside a couple hours during the day when I would do something to take a small break from classes or research. Usually it was something as simple as taking a quick walk outside, anything to take my mind off my studies. These mental breaks may not seem like much, but they can help break up the sometimes monotony of academic work and keep you fresh and invested.