The Daily Illini

It’s time for a (winter) break

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It’s time for a (winter) break

By Claire Hettinger

The expectations of University life can quickly become too much to handle for us students if we don’t take the time to care for ourselves.

Classes are hard, social expectations are taxing and the amount of alcohol we consume isn’t doing anyone any good. Grades are important and so is having a good resume, but students can’t accomplish either one if they don’t make their well-being a top priority.

Humans are not meant to be workhorses, we are meant to enjoy life for all its beauty. School breaks my heart countless times a semester. Often, I end the semester more disenchanted than I thought possible. Some days I don’t see the point in attending at all. But then I take a break, distance myself, and eventually decide that the University isn’t so terrible after all.

Maybe there is a point to my education.

And stress surrounding school can affect the body, too. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Role conflict,” or when students don’t know exactly what is expected of them in school or in different clubs or jobs, can cause gastrointestinal problems. Interpersonal conflicts, like trouble with friends, professors, roommates, RAs, parents or significant others can also affect your body in negative ways. They cause sleep disturbances, leaving students unable to go to sleep at night and with an inability to wake up in the morning.

Stress also suppresses the immune system, which is especially problematic since students spend most of the year fighting off the millions of germs surrounding them. However, without sleep, they are more likely to get sick and have a harder time battling viruses.

Given all these problems, it’s clear that if you never have a chance to relax your body, it’s not going to thank you, but rather come at you with pain and illness.

Another good reason to take a break?

I’ve found that moments of inspiration come in rest, not when the brain is occupied with countless other activities. So really, there is no point in hoping to be creative or innovative if you are overloading your mind with information and tasks most hours of the day. In fact, Netflix binges, exercise and hot cocoa breaks are usually when I find the inspiration to finish papers and when I have the motivation to make myself keep going, to dig in and do my best.

But mostly I get by because I know I don’t have to go on like this forever. I realize that at the end of the line, I can get off the crazy train and I can relax.

I am a very motivated student, but I have never been one to seriously consider taking Winter Break or Summer Classes. I can never decide if it’s because I’m down to earth, or because I’ve got my head stuck in the clouds, but I believe in the beauty of slowing down and noticing what is really important all around me. I like to take long walks and dream about the days to come. I know one day I will have a hectic career and that this is the time I will remember with fondness. I will remember the lazy days I used to spend reading books and scrapbooking my memories. And these memories will get me through the hard times. I will be glad I gave myself a chance to live rather than to quickly carry on, with my head down and my feet never straying from the shortest path to success.

And, one last note: Life isn’t getting easier from here.

In 60 years, you aren’t going to remember the winter class you took; you are going to remember the memories you made with family and friends. You will think with fondness on the times you used to sleep until noon and stay up until 4 a.m. These are the things that will matter, not the extra credit hours or the extreme hours you worked. These memories won’t get you through the hard times, and they sure won’t get you through the long winter months that await us when we get back.

Working hard brings success, but when we achieve success depends on the person. For me, I’m happy now and I think I’ve been very successful. I am studying subjects I love, I am enjoying my life, and I take breaks. Breaks where I enjoy myself and gather strength for the battles to come. I know next semester will be hard and so will the ones after that. But for now, I have final exams and then a month off to remember why I work so hard for the rest of the time: a warm house, a happy family, beautiful friends and some free time to enjoy it all.

Claire can be reached at [email protected]

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