Spring is in the air, and with it the impending end of the school year. For many students, graduation is in sight. But with Summer break around the corner and clear skies for the first time in months, some might find there’s a dark side to the sunny weather: Academic fatigue.
“For a lot of people there is that buildup of ‘I’ve been going for so long and I’m so close to summer break and it’s getting nicer outside,’” Clark counselor Shayna Collins said. “So there’s more pull on our attention to want to go spend time with people and get outdoors.”
While Collins said the counseling center doesn’t see more students in Spring than other quarters, some students do find particular struggles this time of year.
Student Mark Damian falls into that category.
“If it’s sunny, all your thoughts are about doing something fun,” Damian said while studying with a group of friends in Cannell Library on a bright April afternoon. “Even if you want to concentrate [on schoolwork], it doesn’t happen.”
According to Collins, the sunshine is a mixed bag for students.
“We’re getting access to more sunlight, more vitamin D and more time to get out in nature,” she said. “But at the same time it pulls on our sense of balance … Academic fatigue is like any other fatigue: it’s when you reach a point of not feeling balanced and you start to react against that, usually with exhaustion.”
She said these cases rise every quarter during midterms and finals, and usually result from a compounding of several smaller stresses.
“If a student comes in and they’re overwhelmed, exhausted, emotional, usually they’re not sleeping much, their nutrition has taken a dive, they’re cramming all night and having a three-shot latte for breakfast … they’re not exercising as much, they’re not having time with friends,” she said. “All of these things add up.”
Student Hasan Ijaz said it becomes harder to keep going as the end of the quarter nears.
“You just want it to be over,” Ijaz said. “In the last two weeks you’re out of energy.”
But according to Collins, Clark has several lifelines for overwhelmed students: every student can arrange 10 free sessions per year, for two years, at the counseling center.
“We also have a ‘Chill Out Room,’” Collins said. “For people who want to just take time to breathe, do some coloring, listen to music.” All they need to do is stop in and ask to use it.
She said students can also schedule wellness consultations with Clark’s nurse practitioner for $10 to talk about nutrition, supplements, vitamins and other wellness practices. To combat an unhealthy diet, hungry students can also visit the Penguin Pantry, which opened last year.
“A lot of students struggle with food insecurity,” Collins said. “And when you’re hungry it’s a lot harder to study or to show up in a meaningful way.”
With or without these resources, Collins said, overcoming academic fatigue is often about making incremental improvements.
“We’re always looking for ways that students can make things even 2 percent more bearable,” she said. “That can be making sure you get protein in the morning, watching your caffeine intake, getting a couple extra hours of sleep, maybe coming up with relaxation and mindfulness techniques. We can’t help that there are waves in our life, but we can learn to surf.”