For Kristen Louder, a 21-year-old UF dance junior, winter break meant the opportunity to step away from the stage, sit in her room and just breathe. Her last semester was filled with long, exhausting hours running from event to event.
“I feel like it’s definitely important to have a break now more than ever, cause I’m a dance major, and we dance with masks on 24/7,” Louder said.
And yet, the chance for her and other students to enjoy this time away from the stress of campus life was cut short by a decision to reduce the length of winter break made by UF several years prior.
Louder said that several people she knew are also experiencing mental burnout now due to the lack of breaks.
“So, with just that short amount of break, I don’t feel like it was enough time for everyone to recuperate and get themselves together for the next semester,” she said.
The reduced break is part of the natural calendar shift for the university, UF spokesperson Steve Orlando wrote in an email. To create a UF calendar, the university developed 13 years worth of calendars ahead of time to ensure that official UF dates can be adjusted accordingly for each term.
“This year’s break is the one that shifts back from the gradual lengthening we have experienced the last few years,” Orlando wrote.
Moving forward, UF Faculty Senate has approved changes to the academic calendar that would allow for a longer Fall and Spring break, Orlando wrote. This change would start to take effect in the 2024-2025 academic year.
Fortunately, there are various ways for incoming students to take care of their mental health as the Spring semester starts. Students can become involved with campus groups focused on improving mental health.
SKY at UF is one organization out of many others at the university dedicated to bettering community mental health. Vignesh Subramaniam, the operations and finance director of SKY, said the organization offers happiness retreats for students, faculty and staff. The retreats typically last for 10 to 12 hours over the course of two days.
Key mental health techniques like yoga, meditation and breathing exercises are heavily emphasized at SKY.
“It’s very hard to get back to the routine like super quick [after break],” he said.
Subramaniam recommends that students take a different moment each day to take a step back, take a deep breath and practice mindfulness.
Another key area on campus for students to improve their mental health is UF’s Counseling and Wellness Center — a program that helps students cope with change through short-term counseling, group and couple’s therapy and other services.
CWC provides students with access to clinical case managers that work to connect students with mental health resources that fit their personal needs. Students looking to alleviate their anxiety can call the CWC for a brief consultation.
Contact Allyssa Keller at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @allygatorkeller.