Another break in the fall?

Why are we already tired of this semester? We don’t take enough breaks.

Mike Davies, Editor-in-Chief  Ω

I was struggling for a column idea again this week, so I thought I’d maybe just tell you all what’s in this week’s paper.

Then, on Monday morning, I heard on the radio that the local school board is debating extending spring break to two weeks, so I’ve decided to delve into this debate, and gear it towards post-secondary institutions rather than primary schooling.

Feeling like this guy? Me too. I probably wouldn't, though, if we'd have had a week off in October. Sander van der Wel/Flickr Commons

Feeling like this guy? Me too. I probably wouldn’t, though, if we’d have had a week off in October. Sander van der Wel/Flickr Commons

If you read this column regularly (thank you, by the way), you’ll know that I’m an advocate for taking breaks to recharge your batteries and make yourself more productive. There have been plenty of studies done on productivity, and I have yet to find one that says going as hard as you can for as long as you can is the best way to be productive.

I’m also of the opinion, however, that more frequent, shorter breaks are better for you than longer ones further apart.

I try to take every Saturday off. It doesn’t always work — sometimes I find myself checking my inbox, fielding questions from staff or thinking about an assignment with an upcoming due date — and I can tell you honestly that the weeks after I do it successfully are far more productive than the weeks I don’t.

So why all this talk about extending spring break to two weeks in length and so little talk about giving people a week off in, say, October?

Granted, the current discussion surrounding the two-week spring break is in regards to primary schools in the area, where they go about two months longer into the summer than we do here at TRU, so I can understand them focusing on that break, but I still think that the most effective way to recharge is to break more frequently, not for longer periods.

A good number of Ontario post-secondary schools have recently begun adding some time off to their calendar.

In the fall.

Just like I was saying a minute ago.

It’s a mental health issue, after all.

The report that led to the change in Ontario — commissioned by Queen’s University — found that mental illness is a serious issue among post-secondary students. It also said that, “many more students with a pre-existing diagnosis of mental illness now attend university than ever before,” based on statistics that they got from a disturbing mental health study by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) published in the summer of 2012.

The Queen’s study found — among other things — that approximately four per cent of students have a diagnosed psychiatric condition, 15 per cent “have been treated by a professional for one or more mental health problems,” and 36 per cent “felt so depressed they said it was difficult to function.”

Those numbers come from Queen’s University, obviously, but I think you’d find similar numbers at all post-secondary institutions here in Canada.

In an article by Christine Hanlon about the AUCC study, director of Member Relations at AUCC Pari Johnston admits, “There is no cookie cutter approach. There is not going to be a one-size-fits-all as to how institutions approach this issue,” but based on the other studies out there about how good periodic breaks in stress are for one’s mental health, I’d say giving people more breaks to focus on their well-being instead of the pressure of school might be a good place to start looking.

One Response

  1. Cynthia Ross Friedman Feb. 3, 2014