This academic year has been difficult, to say the least. Summer break is almost here, after a long semester with no spring break and only three wellness days scattered throughout the term.
College students have had little opportunity to decompress. An online class environment during the pandemic was the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, the mental cost was great, as Inside Higher Ed reported more than 91% of American students said their stress and anxiety increased during the pandemic.
Personally, this semester has been a monotonous, numbing experience of bouncing from class to class, all while sitting in the same spot in my bedroom. This summer, I want to reconnect with what I enjoyed in the past, but also make new discoveries.
This will be my first real summer break in more than two years. The summer before the fall semester of my freshman year, I attended summer classes and lived on campus as part of the Groups Scholars program. This past summer, the first one during the COVID-19 pandemic, I took two summer courses.
Of course, I need money and will be working over the summer. Financial worry was also widespread among American students over the past year.
Even so, without classes I will finally have the chance to just take a deep breath and relax, if only for a moment. I will also receive my second vaccination shot for COVID-19 Saturday, so I am ecstatic for that peace of mind as well.
As for my plans this break, I am going to reconnect with activities I loved to do as a kid. I camped and hiked frequently. I read for pleasure. I wrote more.
These are all activities I can do to relax and reduce stress. They are pandemic-friendly as well, since you will not catch me in crowds just yet.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of my writing and reading has been for class or for the Indiana Daily Student. I go outside just to hold on to a thread of sanity and remind myself that life does exist outside of my bedroom. I want to enjoy those activities instead of feeling obligated.
I plan to have new endeavors, too. I would love to learn how to paint or to play the guitar. Creativity was so lacking from most of my courses, and the classes that did have creative assignments had the obvious stressor of a deadline.
Meditation is also on my to-do list, which I hope will lead to being more mindful and present. Meditation had a logged 2,900% increase globally by Fitbit users from 2019 to 2020 as people turned to meditation during the pandemic.
I want to give new life to hobbies I do currently as well.
I love to cook and try new recipes and foods. Unfortunately, because of everything on my plate these past two semesters, I have been pretty reserved in my cooking. Over the summer, I want to take the extra time and effort to make food I knew wasn’t feasible this semester.
I should apply that mindset to everything this summer and give myself the extra time and grace for all my efforts. Hopefully, I can be better adjusted and prepared by the time fall semester rolls around. And I hope I don’t speak just for myself.
I know IU students in general are struggling this semester. All of us deserve a break and a chance to do the things we enjoy.
We all need to make a point to take care of ourselves, and each other, over summer break.
Evan Shaw (he/they) is a sophomore studying journalism. He also minors in Arabic and Spanish and hopes to one day become a polyglot.