Mental health effects of no spring break and how to overcome it


Bethany Abrams

In October 2020, Augustana College announced the change that spring break in the 2021 academic year will not be held. The Augustana College website states, “The goal of canceling spring break is to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.” Although I believe that this was the right decision, we are now approaching the time where this truly begins to affect students and staff negatively.
Before this announcement, spring break for Augustana community members was going to be held from March 19 to March 29. Now, the only days off we have are with Easter recess from April 1, after  5 p.m., to April 6.
Without a spring break, many students and faculty are experiencing feelings of heightened stress, anxiety or depression. Many members of the community are feeling “burnt out,” as there is no time to relax or recuperate. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic and the switch to hybrid or all-remote learning environments has perpetuated these feelings already.
Lauren Anderson, a first-year student at Augustana College majoring in communication sciences and disorders, believes the college made the right decision in canceling for the sake of protection and mitigation. However, Anderson said, “by removing spring break this year, the preservation of physical health came at the expense of student’s mental well-being.”
This global pandemic has not been beneficial for Anderson’s mental health, and with all of her commitments in academics, clubs and work, a break would have been especially appreciated. “I find it challenging to designate time for self-care or socialization because my plate is overflowing with other responsibilities,” Anderson said.
Spring break is supposed to be the time where students and faculty alike can have time to take a breather. “With the little time students have to recuperate from their overwhelming routines, the 15-week stretch from winter to summer break is daunting and discouraging,” Anderson said.
Having a long spring semester with no spring break is not only daunting to students and faculty, but It also can become somewhat impossible to manage. Managing college with the virus is already a large feat, and then having no break can add to that difficulty.
For me, I look forward to and count down the days to breaks, such as when we had Thanksgiving break in the fall. Without having a spring break, there seems to be nothing to look forward to, except summer, which is months away.
Luckily, Anderson’s professors have understood the mental hardships students have endured. “Several have provided my peers and I with therapy resources, and one of my professors even ended class early a few weeks ago because he knew we were all exhausted,” Anderson said.
Kirsten Day, an associate professor of classics at the college, also acknowledges these mental health concerns. “I am very sorry to lose the break that we have come to expect, and which this year seems even more needed,” Day said.
In response to this cancellation, Day chose to implement three “down days,” two being called catch-up days while the other being a mental health day. Catch-up days can be used in case the class has gotten behind and need help keeping up with the course material.
“My hope was that we would not get behind and that these could be used as mental health days as well, and we managed to do that for the first one,” Day said.
The designated mental health day, established on March 19 when spring break would have started, allows students to have a break that they could count on around the middle of the term.
Having these mental health days, or even just a general awareness of the mental health struggles for students and faculty at this time is important in looking out for one another.
In addition, this mental health day happens to fall on a day where Day’s children are on their spring break. This allows her to spend time with her children for at least one day of their spring break.
“As a parent, I feel guilty for not being able to stop and play with them, and it is intensified by the fact that we are all here in close quarters,” Day said. And so, having this mental health day benefits her as a mother as well.
COVID-19 and the lack of spring break has impacted every part of an individual’s life, including family. Nonetheless, all members of the Augustana College community are persevering.
These mental health days and a general understanding of each other’s struggles have been what has gotten me through this semester. I believe even having days where professors end class earlier than usual shows empathy and allows me and other students to have some extra, necessary downtime.
“I have been really proud to see how well most students are handling the difficulties of the term and respecting COVID-19 expectations. They have also been very generous with their teachers, understanding how difficult all this is for us as well,” Day said.
A part of surviving this lack of spring break is pride in our collective efforts as we continue to make sacrifices for the sake of mitigating the spread of the virus. By applauding the progress we have made thus far, we can continue to feel inspired and motivated to continue.
To get through this month with no break, it is important to prioritize your mental health and self-care more than usual. Utilize Augustana College’s counseling services if needed or reach out to professors. It can be intimidating to open up to a professor, but they are aware of these difficult times and are willing to support in any way possible.
In terms of resources, Students.Care is a 24/7 Counseling Service that can be used, along with TAO Connect which has an array of resources and short videos that can help mitigate anxiety or sadness, return the body and mind to a state of relaxation and manage stress. It is okay to struggle and to use these resources, just remember that you are not alone.
In addition, I encourage the Augustana community to remember why there is no spring break in the first place. Although it is disheartening, we are enduring this for a purpose as it will be good for mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
We can be one step closer to returning to a state of normalcy, which will allow our mental health to prosper when that time comes.
We are a strong community, and I am certain that we can get through this tough time with each other’s support and understanding.
Graphic by Alyssa Duckett.