Vacations necessary for students' mental health

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Photo Credit: Gaby Breiter | Daily Texan Staff

While the United States can boast being advanced in many ways, it fails to require basic rights for its citizens, an example being proper mental health care. For students, taking exceptional care to manage stress and anxiety levels is critical.

Students need more than the two stress-free breaks during the year they get during summer and winter break. Students need breaks and vacations without the worry of homework or school work on a regular basis to maintain mental health and keep grades up.

The United States’ culture values work much more than it does breaks, which are seen as unproductive. Other countries boast siestas, two-hour long lunches and 40, yes 40, days of paid vacation. In comparison, the U.S. does not legally mandate any paid vacation days at all. Some companies, especially those that boast valuing employee health, give paid vacation days. Many smaller companies, most of which are known to have a positive employee culture, even offer unlimited paid vacation time.

Fast Company tried offering unlimited paid vacation time for a year and found that people did not increase the number of days they took off despite the ability to do so. Rather, they found that their employees trusted the company more because they saw that the company viewed them holistically rather than simply as workers. They saw the company as more compassionate towards their personhood.

Despite the necessity of vacations, studies have shown that Americans often do not use their time off. By contrast, 39 percent of executives think that their employees will do better work if they take more vacation days, 72 percent of senior managers of companies do not believe that offering more unpaid time off would result in people taking an excessive number of vacation days, and, as Fast Company has shown, this is true.

Not using vacation days is detrimental to one’s health, as is not giving enough vacation to begin with. Studies have found that people who take vacations are likely to have lower stress levels. Furthermore, chronic stress decreases the body’s ability to prevent infections, avoid injury and avoid anxiety and depression. The benefits of vacations also extend to how people relate to their families and extend to their friendships and relationships.

While students are given breaks, they are often ineffective because an excessive amount of work is assigned to be completed over break. Furthermore, many students pursue internships. Studies have found that substance abuse is likely to increase over school breaks due to continuing stress and lack of structure.

Just like adults, who need vacation time, and young children, who get homework-free breaks, college students need time off. UT should institute policies that makes spring break a more effective stress relieving experience. This would show students that, like companies who offer paid vacation time, students are valued holistically and not just as tuition-paying robots.

Kashar is an English freshman from Scarsdale. Follow her on Twitter @LeahKashar.