October 3, 2022

MEHLER | The Art of Fall Breaking

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Except for Labor Day, Cornellians have been cruising full speed ahead with their coursework five days a week for seven straight weeks. At the halfway mark of the semester, fall break gives us all an additional two days to do something other than sit in the classroom. With this little recess approaching, students will do everything from relaxing to catching up (or getting ahead) on work and everything in between. Some students will go home for a couple of days and others will stay in Ithaca for the break. Whatever your plans, I encourage everyone to truly take a break so the demands of our college and professional expectations do not entirely weigh us down.

For the past week, I have found myself physically sick with a sore throat, runny nose and more drowsiness than I typically experience. Coupled with negative COVID tests and a flu shot, I am almost certain that the physical fatigue can directly be correlated to my illness. Pushing further, I started asking myself if I have been doing everything else to stay healthy. Eight hours of sleep? Yes, that is always non-negotiable. Exercising? Twice a week ice skating and five miles of uphill daily walking check that box. Eating well? Maybe not as much as the start of the semester but definitely not gaining any weight. Too much schoolwork or activities? I have not missed any assignments and clubs appear to be running on schedule, so the issue is not here either. So what could possibly be poisoning me?

Simply put, there is not one course of action to switch to nor one specific thing to cut out of my daily routine. Ultimately, a combination of work, work and more work just ran its course, and the physical symptoms are my body’s way of getting me to slow down and rest. For me, fall break feels to be arriving just slightly too late — I needed the break this past weekend. But with the break coming nonetheless, every Cornellian, whether you feel exhausted or not, will have time off in a couple of days.

So, take the time to breathe during the break. Even if you do everything perfectly, on time and sufficiently to cover all your bases, your body will catch up to you and force you to rest. This break is an opportunity to reset your body’s rest clock and finish the second half of the semester even stronger than the first. I cannot say enough that you must take the time to relieve some of the stress going on in your life. The most productive stage of performance is in a tolerable stress range: too much or too little stress leads us to be too comfortable or not comfortable enough to perform well. But breaks do not require us to be at performance stress levels. Breathe, rest and recuperate to come back better.

While DayQuil and NyQuil have powered me through this week, I plan to drive home this weekend with my friends and family and truly rest for four days. Between good New York pizza, playing some Pokémon and sleep, I will not be doing any schoolwork this weekend. Yes, there are some professional and business meetings I need to do while back in New York but at the end of the day, I will be breaking, just as fall break is intended to be used.

Patrick J. Mehler is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]. The Mehl-Man Delivers runs every other Monday this semester.