The two extreme approaches to reading week and why it's important to find a middle ground
YOOHYUN PARK/MULTIMEDIA COORDINATOR
Viewing reading week strictly as a break or as solely a time for revision can be harmful for students' wellbeing
For Canadian university students, reading week is likely the most anticipated week of the semester. It is standard for most universities to give their students a week off classes and other academic engagements. For the well-being of their students, many universities promote this break as a time to recharge, catch up on missed work or even get ahead in classes.
This messaging helps to increase the appeal of this weeklong recess. However, some students have a different take on reading week. Come reading week, students may be so burnt out from the first half of the semester, from assignment after assignment, midterm after midterm, they view reading week as a complete break. They use this time to fully relax and refreshen. As I have done this every reading week I have experienced, I would also argue there are many downsides to this approach.
For some people, this approach can contribute to a sense of overwhelming guilt for not working and simply taking time to relax instead. This kind of guilt is often driven by anxiety, particularly what is known as "time anxiety.” Tim anxiety refers to the feeling of unease created by time passing and believing that it is too late to accomplish certain things.
Time does not halt while we may take a step back from our studies during the week. In fact, it goes by faster if anything. So it's important to be mindful of the extent to your relaxation as readings will continue to pile up and you will once again fall back into the perpetual cycle of burnout.
Additionally, for several students, the majority of their midterms fall after the break. With no classes to attend, they may choose to cram for the back-to-back midterms that wait for them the next week. However, this leaves little room to truly recharge and can lead to students feeling even more stressed than they might during their normal schedule.
As humans, it can be hard for us to find a balance at times. In the short run, we find it much easier to commit to one or another extreme, but this can result in long-term dissatisfaction and, in this case in particular, further burnout. Students must force themselves to find a balance during this period as that is the only way they might genuinely be able to take the opportunity for relaxation that reading week is offers, all while remaining successful in our studies.
To start developing balance, students could set up a short to do list for yourself every day and resist the urge to pile on more tasks than you can handle. I find that at times I overestimate how much I can get done on a day free of classes. But in reality, I easily get distracted from the tasks at hand and long to do something more relaxing, especially since I have a free day.
Reading week can set students up for the gruelling two months that follow it, but it is also capable for setting students up for success for the rest of the semester. If we just try to find a school-relaxation balance during the break, we would be able to not only enjoy the break itself, but achieve much more throughout the remaining part of the semester.