Regular breaks this academic year to aid students’ mental health

Students get excited for upcoming breaks this year, as last year there were none due to the changes that Covid-19 brought. Olivia Martin | Photo Editor

By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer

After enduring the shortened fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters with barely any breaks, students look forward to the 2021-2022 academic year, which includes full semesters and regular breaks.

Senior associate director and training director of the Counseling Center Dr. Randal W. Boldt said the pandemic and university changes had a big impact on students’ mental health. Boldt said there was a large increase in reports of depression, anxiety, loneliness and grief.

“The mental health impact of all these changes wrought by the pandemic was serious, and while the schedule changes, hybrid courses and limited social engagement were necessary to increase the safety of our students, it reduced the opportunities that students normally have to take a break from the semester, build relationships, exercise, engage in university activities and connect with family members,” Boldt said. “These are strategies that we use daily during normal times as preventive measures to maintain good mental health.”

Corona, Calif., sophomore Courtney Stahloefer, a member of the Calendar Committee, said via email that breaks give students a chance to rest and catch up on work — something she didn’t have last year.

“Having little breaks felt very taxing,” Stahloefer said. “It felt like I was always going and never had a break. I felt like the only thing I could look forward to was summer because that was going to be the first time I would have a break. My grades and attendance did not suffer; however, my mental health did. I struggled to live in the moment, and always looking toward the future drained all spirit and excitement I had.”

Stahloefer also said breaks give students hope.

“For the upcoming Labor Day holiday, I am planning on utilizing that time to catch up and possibly get ahead on work,” Stahloefer said. “I consider it almost a saving grace for my sleep schedule and my sanity.”

Littleton, Colo., junior Garrett Milne, another member of the Calendar Committee, said via email that the lack of breaks had a negative effect on his mental health.

“I think that breaks will help me reset periodically through the semester and help refocus,” Milne said. “I have always found that breaks are a good time to relax with friends and spend time in community.”

Milne also said the students on the Calendar Committee suggest maximizing breaks without infringing on instruction days.

“I always think that regular, consistent breaks in the semester are good for the productivity of students,” Milne said. “Breaks give students a chance to rest or catch up in their classes. Students’ mental health does benefit from time to rest and help them with the rest of their semester.”