Saifee: Our Break is Finally Here!


The University of Utah campus gets adorned with the first snowfall of the season on Dec. 04, 2019 (Photo by Abu Asib | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Zahra Saifee, Opinion Editor


I let out a sigh of relief after turning in my last final paper — a sigh of disbelief because I didn’t think we would ever reach the end of this semester. We have made it through 15 straight weeks of arguably the most challenging semester yet. Fifteen consecutive weeks with no breaks besides Thanksgiving since the University of Utah decided to forgo fall break to keep campus COVID-19 cases contained.

But let’s be honest, canceling fall break came at the cost of students’ and staffs’ mental health. We had to trudge through 15 weeks riddled with hurdles amid a global pandemic. Our semester consisted of never-ending zoom classes, hurricane-force winds, rising COVID-19 cases, a tumultuous election and low social interaction — just to name a few elements of the past few months. No wonder we feel mentally drained and emotionally exhausted. Breaks are essential to our campus community’s wellbeing, so, please, spend the next five weeks relaxing during our well-deserved winter break.

College is already hard. For many, college is the first time in their life when they are on their own. Students are figuring out life’s big questions and their place in the world, which is stressful in itself. Before the pandemic, college students were already experiencing mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression at a greater rate. Add a global pandemic to the mix, and college has become extremely difficult. The pandemic has compounded the mental health issues students face. Sleep deprivation, lack of motivation and loss of structure due to the pandemic contribute to students’ poor mental health. The university’s decision to have a two-week online circuit breaker, which many hoped would be a mid-semester breather, actually left students feeling more tired.

Students are also facing real-world issues that overshadow schoolwork. I know many students that have been setback by contracting COVID-19. I know even more students that have been distressed by their family’s contraction of COVID-19. Some students are facing barriers to fulfill their basic needs, such as financial stability. An 11:59 deadline doesn’t matter much when those basic needs aren’t met. Hopefully, winter break will give students the time and space to figure things out.

By the time you’ll be reading this, almost everyone will be done with final papers, exams, and projects, so put school out of sight and out of mind until January 19, 2021. Remember to give yourself space to take it easy during winter break. Of course, there are certain responsibilities that you still may have to attend to — i.e., work — but allow yourself time to not worry about school.

Many students use their winter break to apply for internships and search for career opportunities. However, please don’t feel pressured to hop to it immediately. Ditch the toxic productivity mindset of getting everything done and always working. Instead, I suggest you focus on finding the right balance between what’s good for you, what you want to do and what you need to do. Use the next five weeks to find a healthy balance of sleeping, eating and working. It is better to take a break than push yourself to work on applications while still burnt out from the semester.

Take time to decompress. Many of us still haven’t dealt with the emotional and mental burden of the pandemic. Decompressing helps alleviate the build-up of negative emotions. So how do we decompress, practice self-care and allow ourselves to heal over break?

Take the time to do what you love or discover what activities make you happy. I, for one, will be spending plenty of time outside. Research has shown that spending time outdoors works wonders for your mental and physical health. Just 20 minutes outside per day is all your body needs to feel better. So, take this as a sign to enjoy the sun or snow.

Spend your break watching movies, listening to music and reading books that you haven’t had time to enjoy until now. If you are looking for suggestions, the Chrony’s Arts Desk has plenty! Spend time on hobbies — whether that is practicing an old one or discovering a new one. Also, don’t feel guilty if you spend hours scrolling on TikTok, sleeping or doing absolutely nothing because we all deserve to do absolutely nothing for a little while. Lastly, and most importantly, spend time with the ones you love while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines.

This semester has been the most challenging one yet. We all have taken quite a few hits, but we have managed to make it to the end. Be proud of what you have accomplished and forgive what you’ve missed. Take this break to heal, sleep and do things that make you happy because that’s what breaks are all about.


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