Johnson: The problem with all work and no play

Why college students need more than two days off

Grace Johnson, Staff Columnist

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that burnout is real. With Zoom classes, online meetings, virtual events and homework, there are prevalent issues including exhaustion, depression and general irritation with screens which need to be seriously addressed. 

Yes, college is about learning and education. But how can we, as students, be expected to perform and retain that education if our minds and bodies are so exhausted from countless weeks of uninterrupted schooling? As a working college student involved in various clubs and organizations, I can attest to the mental and emotional distress caused by not having a substantial break.

Mental health awareness should remain a top priority for college faculty and staff, but I am not sure how awarding us two non-consecutive days will aid our mental health. After all, those two days will, in keeping with the nature of Case Western Reserve University students, be spent studying and doing homework. I am also aware of various professors who have assigned major tests and copious amounts of work for the days following those two “mental health days,” completely defeating the purpose of providing us with some reprieve. 

Last week, I posted a poll on social media asking a host of college students whether two random mental health days is enough to improve their mental health, and the response was very telling. 

For the hundreds of students who voted, the final percentage split was 94% to 6%, the majority of whom obviously said it wasn’t an adequate break. 

We are tired. We are burnt out. We are looking for outlets that do not involve computer screens and are yearning for places beyond our bedrooms or kitchen tables.

However, we also recognize the present danger of the pandemic. 

The fear of students travelling home or on vacation for spring break is certainly valid. However, CWRU leadership should also recognize that remote classes mean students can be anywhere, anytime throughout the semester—whether it’s on a beach in Florida or visiting family across the country. In other words, students will—and do—travel regardless. 

Additionally, mandated weekly COVID-19 testing ensures students are either on campus or not on campus for longer than a week. Furthermore, there is also a policy that ensures a 7-day quarantine after leaving the state to prevent substantial outbreaks on campus.

All of this being said, I think I speak for the majority of the student body when I say we are willing to jump through whatever hoops we need to in order to afford ourselves a breather from the exhaustive (and incredibly amazing) work that a CWRU education provides. I, for one, would be willing to stay on campus and do what needed to be done in order to have a break from my courses. 

Work hard, play hard: We’ve all heard it. But how can we continue to work hard if the only “play” we are receiving comes from the few hours of sleep we get and maybe one night a weekend where we allow ourselves to step away from it all for a little while?

Mental health issues have reared their ugly heads in the last year of distancing and virtual living, so maintaining a healthy outlook is difficult. I didn’t have a high school graduation. I have friends who had to spend their first semesters of college in their bedrooms at home. The loneliness and disconnectedness from the world has had a seriously detrimental effect on the world’s population. Human beings need each other. This pandemic has made that incredibly challenging.

Education and work are phenomenal ways of growth and connection through this difficult time, but in order to do that effectively, we must also have time to sit back and relax. Two non-consecutive days are not the avenue to ensure the success of our work and education.

We are tired. We are anxious. We are unable to do our work to the best of our ability. 

A more substantial spring break is not only wanted, it is needed.