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Take a Deep Breath; Your “Break” Can Actually Be a Break

By Hemish Naidoo

The bustling, rowdy and delicious Thanksgiving feasts are now behind Adelphi students as they brace for an arduous final leg of the semester. Finals are right around the corner. Swirbul Library will soon likely reflect a downtown market for as late as 3 am as students frantically cram as much studying as they can, hoping to escape their finals without spiraling into hopelessness wondering what their end-of-semester grades will look like. The extreme switch from enjoying intimate moments with family at the dining room table to non-stop stress imposes a huge mental strain on nearly all college students. Thankfully, they have winter break right after as something they can look forward to, the light at the end of the tunnel. Undoubtedly, many Adelphi students will take advantage of their month-long therapy session to recover from finals… right?

Unfortunately, for countless students, the trials and tribulations suffered from finals merely continues into what was supposed to be their relaxing winter break. Rather than planning a quick getaway vacation with family or friends, students’ thoughts instead center on what they can do for their careers and future: “What internships can I start doing? Any research positions opening up? Maybe I should try to apply for that fellowship? What am I doing with my time if I’m not going to at least work a part-time job and earn some money on the side?” These questions begin early in the semester, and almost seem to hypnotize students into a perpetual “hustling” mindset, seemingly guilt-tripping their consciousness into using their limited, precious time during break to accomplish some sort of professional goal or feel like an unproductive deadbeat otherwise.

At first, the development of this “workaholic” culture in Adelphi students who already have too much on their plate may seem unexpected. The extreme mental fatigue and stress that college students endure is largely unavoidable. Extensive studies done by institutions like the University of North Carolina note that large responsibilities are suddenly thrown on students when they begin college, combined with having to tackle these responsibilities largely alone. It can disrupt personal routines and even adversely affect mental health. On top of this, it’s already well known that taking short breaks during studying can improve productivity and help students remember more information. This has led to a wider adoption of studying strategies like Pomodoro’s Technique, which prioritize short breaks in between intervals of studying to maximize efficiency and minimize mental fatigue. Clearly, Adelphi students know that breaks are important, so why the hesitancy to apply the same principles to winter break?

Data gathered by TimelyMD, which surveys college students, and organized by CampusSafety magazine, highlights that students who feel anxious during winter break and those who don't resemble a nearly perfect 50-50 split.  

It’s no secret by now that, compared to previous generations of students, acquiring a job, getting accepted into graduate school or fulfilling a pre-professional track has never been more competitive, and it will only become more cutthroat in future years. Under this immense pressure, it’s easy to see why certain students feel they are forced to do everything they can to get an edge over other qualified individuals, even if it comes at the expense of their mental health. Of course, these feelings are entirely valid; having a solid resume under your belt isn’t something that any student feels should be sacrificed. So where’s the middle ground, what can be done to actually make winter break a true break?

The simple solution, as cliche as it may sound, is adjusting your mindset. The angle or perspective that an Adelphi student has on their activities, the ones they are putting so much effort into, can greatly influence the reward, or what they feel they are getting out of it. 

Sophomore history major Vincent Calvagno said, “During extended breaks, I enjoy dividing my time between two sources of fulfillment: academics and athletics. The entity transcending the boundary between the two is nature, which is both expressed through academic prose and athletic adventurism. Breaks are a time to retreat from the rush and unite with your surroundings, freed from the pressure to abandon them.”

If a student wants to make use of their break time without experiencing burnout, they should view their professional experiences as not just a resume-filler, checking off some box on a planner, but an engaging and interactive experience. Should a pre-medical student really dedicate all of their time trying to get a volunteer position at a far-away hospital that already has more than enough volunteers, or is there a peaceful local library a few blocks down that would really appreciate a helping hand at any given time? These are the questions students should ask themselves. These experiences are meaningful because students are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. No student should think that the value of these experiences lie solely into getting accepted and then completing them. A student is still a student, and losing track of all of the meaningful lessons they would have otherwise acquired because of their mindset diminishes any true enjoyment and education a student would have received. 

So, as Adelphi students plan out their winter break plans, they should always keep in mind that everything they do should benefit them. The benefit should not just come in the form of adding another bullet point on their LinkedIn profile, but by realizing that they are committing to an effort which will gift them something that no resume can fully encapsulate. If Adelphi students can look back and feel that this was true, then their breaks were, by all means, relaxing and successful. 

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