Reading weeks are vital to a semester, and no, it’s not because we get a week off of class. It’s because it is a week to check in with ourselves and see how we’re doing. If my schedule permits I always like to go away for reading week. Whether it’s to New York or to my grandma’s, it’s a week out of my normal surroundings. Sometimes when I can’t get out of town, I use this week to study at different libraries or cafes around the city. I give myself new surroundings and a different pace for the week.
Now, why would I do this? Why wouldn’t I just take advantage of the week and stay at the library all day long? For some people that might work, and that might be the kind of break they need. Having undivided study time can be great and so productive! But I’ve found that reading week has recreated an internal conflict within myself. I’ve gotten obsessed with my productivity and the amount of time I spend in the library. I would go from spending as much time as I needed in a library to feeling like I had to meet a quota to feel productive. This is the exact kind of mentality I am now striving to move away from. Spending time studying is vital to doing well, but spending time for yourself is a life skill that not only promotes academic success but also lifelong success.
Everyone needs breaks, and for me those breaks consist of getting on a plane and travelling to a different country. I find new environments to be thrilling and invigorating. Breathing in new air helps me revive from the weeks I’ve spent studying in the same libraries. Most importantly, it radically changes my headspace and gives me time to ask myself questions like: “have I been pushing myself too far? Have I been pushing myself enough? How is my mental health?”
I used to push myself almost to the point of being burnt out every. single. semester. And while that isn’t sustainable I felt guilty giving myself breaks. Something I realized, however, was that breaks are not just rewards but are also as vital to the studying process as sitting down with a book and making notes. Allotting time to be with yourself and listen to your body and mind is not something that needs to be earned: it’s a need that we all need to exercise.
While I’m still going to be studying on my reading week, I also will be enjoying the sights and taking time to do things I want to do. Like anything in life, it’s about balance and I hope we can all find some balance during this week. Spend time at the library, spend time at the gym, or even spend time in bed. Do whatever it is that YOU need to do to reset yourself for the following weeks to come. I know I will!
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