OPINION: Finals are over – what now?
UA undergraduates at the eastern slopes of the Andes, where the mountains meet the rain forest. The Ecuador study abroad program runs over winter break.
Finals are soon to be over, the weight of them lifted from your chest. No more cramming or stress or barely eating and sleeping for days on end. Now you’re free for the next four weeks, unless you’re one of the few who will take a winter course to whom I’ll say: Good luck, you’re a trooper!
But, for those of you who will be taking a break from school for the next month, what do you have planned? Are you going home, traveling, working?
I know my first winter break after a grueling semester I felt on top of the world, ready to sleep and lounge around for the next four weeks before I had to jump back into the next semester.
I went home and worked the holiday shifts at Barnes & Noble and, let me tell you, some people can get aggressive about their books. When I wasn’t at work, I was at home trying to find my sanity by sleeping and catching up on all the movies I had missed when I was gone.
However, as tempting as lounging around until school starts again might be, I highly recommend against this plan of action. Trust me, I’ve been there, I’ve done it and I sorely regretted it. By the time I returned for the spring semester, instead of feeling refreshed and motivated to begin my next round of classes, I felt sluggish and off-center.
It turns out, taking a mental break, like everything else in life, is best taken in moderation. If you remain stationary for too long, you lose all forward momentum and it’s harder to get started again as a result. So, how can you combat this?
The best way I have found is to keep busy and keep your mind working. I’m not saying keep cramming it with information you’ll need for school or taking some intensive course. If you find that is what works best for you, go for it, but again, you don’t need to be that aggressive.
What I do suggest is finding something to keep your mind active.
If you’re anything like me, you have a long list of books you’d like to read in your lifetime. So, pick one to read in your newly found down time.
I know I rarely find the time to read anything outside of school during the semester, so it’s extraordinarily satisfying to pick up a long-lost friend and explore the depths of a new world to help recuperate from a difficult semester. I already have plans to finish reading “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate” by Naomi Klein.
If reading isn’t your thing, then find your thing — go hiking with friends and family, maybe work on that book you told yourself you’d write, devote time to your craft, spend time on your Rosetta Stone lessons, try out that boxing class you heard about.
Find something every day to help make yourself better and keep yourself moving, even if it’s for an hour a day. Your brain will thank you for it when the new school term comes around.
Planning your time, whether in school or not, is one of the best ways to maintain your schedule and motivation, especially as you likely had a routine down pat by the time finals rolled around.
You knew when your classes were, you had get-togethers with friends scheduled, sports or choir practice, football and basketball games penciled in and whatever else you had planned to make the most of your time, so keep that momentum going.
Now, if you’re reading this, please don’t think I’ll judge if you take a few days to do absolutely nothing. I’d be a hypocrite if I did, because, after months of hard work and stress, we’re definitely entitled to a few days that require minimal brain power.
Take your day, or three. You’ve earned it. Have a great break, everyone!
Alexis Richardson is a graduate student who is ready to write a few chapters of her book and prep for her final semester at UA. Follow Alexis on Twitter