Spring break is usually either a time to be a couch potato or a party animal.
Students tend to use varying coping mechanisms to recover from mid-semester stress and burnout. However, we overlook conscious ways to re-energize and instead use frivolous indulgences to feel better.
Mary Klayder, associate director of the English department at the University of Kansas, discussed some ways to rejuvenate during break, imparting some of her wisdom on how to keep your head up high.
Your famous motto that you have lovingly shared with your students is “It’ll be fine.” What inspired this?
“Sometimes I have to think about “it’ll be fine” in a larger context. It started when I had students coming in worried about tests, graduate school, just worried on every level. I would say, “it’ll be fine, let’s calm down and figure out what you’re going to do.” In that sense, it was about coming to terms with the fact that you are going to make some choices at every step of your life. Who knows how it will go, but regardless of the outcome, you will soon have new choices again.
"Politically and socially, there are so many things that are troubling and difficult, but panic never helps. Having limited spaces and times in our lives is a real thing. However, we need to calm down and think about if something does not work out, we will still have other choices. I want to help people take a breath and realize that.”
Spring break is the best opportunity for some self-indulgence. Besides materialistic luxuries like sitting by the pool and sipping on a drink, what do you recommend that students do to come back energized?
“I think rest is good, but sometimes we think just lying around is going to be energizing. However, that makes you bored, and your mind gets out of shape. So, it is always good to find something that energizes you.
Even if you stay home — read something, watch movies for you, or take walks! Go, get out of the boxes that you usually sit in. I think re-seeing helps more than anything else to recalibrate. The concept of ‘re-seeing’ is all about looking for things you might not have observed before. Going to an art museum, or walking around in a neighborhood that you have never been to helps you see your own world differently.
"This is an energizing experience, which is why people love to travel. It is not about checking boxes of the places you have been to. It is more about paying attention to how things are in different places. Observing and reflecting helps you think about everything you do. For me, conscious living or living purposefully helps me get back some energy.”
People tend to forget to make time for mindful living and relaxation outside of their work and school routine. How can we change this?
“Lots of time, people leave art or music behind. Picking that back up and realizing the power of visual arts or a different activity that makes you happy is very helpful. In graduate school, I was struggling to finish a paper that I was working on. I saw the connections, but I could not figure out the transition I wanted to make.
"So I paused my work and started painting. My watercolors take three steps — the first one is muddy, the second one starts to get somewhere, and then the third one has the flow that I want. By the time I had finished the third step, my paper had written itself! I just had to get out of that rut. Sometimes people don’t do things for themselves that they need to do. We need to work smarter and more relaxedly rather than working more.”
There is a lot to be learned from Dr Klayder’s wisdom. This break, we should all spend more time choosing to let go of what we cannot control, living purposefully, refocusing our energy on the things we love, and knowing that “it’ll be fine.”
Archana Ramakrishnan is a junior from Chennai, India studying computer science.