Looking around in classes during the week that would have been our spring break in normal circumstances, it is clear that the loss of this much-needed time off is heavily impacting Western Illinois University students. We are currently in week eight of our sixteen consecutive week semester, and while I am incredibly grateful to still be on campus, unlike our spring 2020 semester which ended a year ago this week, I am feeling the effects of this grueling semester just like my peers.
The intentions behind canceling our spring break are clear: preventing students from traveling will also prevent them from bringing new COVID-19 cases to Macomb from outside communities. However, the loss of this critical rest period, time with family and friends, and the fun experiences we would have had is just another one of the many losses our college experiences have taken because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I personally was planning to use this time to visit with my family, practice for my junior music department recital, and tour prospective graduate schools that I will hopefully start attending in just a year and a half. As we each reflect on our cancelled plans for this spring break, our desire for a break, and the realization that we have been living in these “unprecedented times” for a full calendar year, developing a mindset that steers us away from burnout becomes more important than ever.
As the semester continues, make sure to schedule time for yourself in lieu of spring break to remind yourself to take much-needed breaks from your schoolwork. Especially as we are tackling midterm exams, reward yourself for the hard work you have completed by treating yourself with something you enjoy: some time to watch Netflix, dinner with friends, or your favorite dessert. Whatever it is that brings you happiness, make sure you are appropriately prioritizing it and fitting it into your weekly routine this semester. For me personally, I am making sure to spend time each day reading and exercising, which are two of my passions outside of my class assignments. By incorporating these more frequently into daily life, we can make it easier to manage the residual stress that comes with the loss of spring break.
In addition to self-care, there are many resources on campus that can help you deal with the stress you may be feeling during this time. The University Counseling Center provides free, short-term, confidential counseling to all students. The Alcohol and Other Drugs Resource Center and Health Resource Center are available to students who may be dealing with substance abuse. There is tutoring available in a variety of subjects and the University Writing Center open to any students who might need additional academic support. And do not be afraid to reach out to your professors individually if you are struggling, as each professor has office hours that are designated for meeting with and supporting students. To all WIU students, but especially those experiencing their first year on campus, utilize the available resources to help you through this challenging time in the semester! You don’t have to go through this alone.