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Reading Break May Actually Increase Student Stress

Man with hand in his Hands working on MacBook computer stress

By Karlie Mickanuik

NAIT’s spring reading break has come and gone and classes are back in full swing. Reading break is seen as a time to de-stress as a student, but does the week actually help stress levels?

Multiple NAIT students say the reading break is beneficial for them. Violet Zukowski, a Forest Technology student, says she personally needs a reading break as her program has a heavy course load.

“I don’t work often and can catch up on school work, but mostly I am trying to have that break and catch up on sleep,” said Zukowski.

Clinton Wutzke is a carpentry student at NAIT and although he does not have a week off from school he sees the break as a positive for students.

“I think anytime you get time off, whether you are using it for reading week or to sleep in, is a good thing,” said Wutzke.

Reading breaks are placed in February and November when student stress levels are usually the highest.

Tanya Spencer, the lead for Student Counselling and Chaplaincy says NAIT’s most high-stress time is in March. She believes there is some connection to NAIT’s week off and high stress levels of students. The peak for NAIT’s counselling services occurs right after the reading break.

“Everybody, staff and students alike, really look forward to reading week, and then the week after hits and it really is akin to a hangover,” said Spencer.

Spencer says the week after reading break causes students stress levels and mental health to be worse than before the break occurred.

She explains that students often have tests and assignments due the first few days back from break, which adds to stress levels. Spencer says students usually do one of two things: plan to work on homework or have an active social life.

Students will usually end up not doing either of these things, which leads to them getting discouraged as a result.

Spencer believes that reading breaks in the long run are not helpful to students and explains how students should not depend on reading week as the only time to de-stress.

“If you don’t think you can make it through the term without a reading break that might be an indication that you need to build breaks into every school day and every school week. If you’re gonna wait for someone else to give them to you, you’re not gonna get enough,” said Spencer.

McMaster University performed a stress hormone test on participants where they tested the saliva of students before and after the break for their cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone linked to stress levels. The results revealed cortisol levels were higher after the break.

Although the hormonal levels says stress levels were higher after the reading break, nearly 70 per cent of people participating in the study said the reading break helped their stress levels. Showing once again that reading breaks remain a dividing issue for students and experts alike.

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