Why We Should and Shouldn’t Need Spring Break

Xperience Growthblogposts

I’ve spent this past week on spring break. I love the chance to get away from the typical and into a different routine for a few days. Especially, when the warm sun shines near salty water.

In some respects, I really needed this week. At the same time, I really didn’t need a break at all. That is where the magic lies.

When we think of spring break, it’s a week in the middle (somewhat) of the 2nd semester in the school year. Or the halfway point from the holidays in December to summer vacations. It’s a tradition popularized in the 1950’s by getting a break from the cold winters by spending a week in warm weather by college students that is now embraced by our society as a whole. It’s the break we believe we need.

Here’s why we need spring break.

It gives us something to look forward to. Psychology research shows that anticipation of an event actually releases more positive neuro-chemicals than the event itself. The anticipation is motivating because of the dopamine release when we think about it. We experience an increase of oxytocin (the “love” neuro-chemical) when we think about the time spent with loved ones. Those chemicals help us find motivation and connection and overall feel good in the moments they are in our bodies – well before we actually take the vacation.

That means that when we’re working pre spring break, with our families, working out or whatever is important to us in our daily life, the anticipation of a fun spring break week will actually help us achieve more in the weeks leading up to the week. This happens because of the excitement and happiness the anticipation of spring break creates in us that we will apply to the activity of the day.

It helps us deepen our connections. If you’re like most people, spring break is spent with family or close friends. Regardless of whether you’re staying at home or going to an exotic locale, it’s the time investment that makes relationships deeper.

Let’s face it, in our “normal” lives, we don’t spend a lot of time with the people we care most about. I think about my Monday through Friday… I spend roughly 1.5 hour with my girls before school (including the ride to school) and 2 hours after work before they go to bed. That’s less than 4 hours each day. And, that time is spent getting them ready for school, strongly encouraging them to eat dinner (parents, you feel me, right!?!) and getting them to bed & asleep. Not a lot of quality connection time is happening. So, spring break is the opportunity to take advantage of the expansive time and really spend quality time together.

The strength of our connections is important to our overall health. The longest longitudinal study, now spanning nearly 90 years, dubbed “The Harvard Happiness Study” shows the #1 predictor of long-term health, longevity and happiness is the strength of our relationships. Spring break allows the time & space to make those connections stronger.

All that said… we shouldn’t need spring break. We shouldn’t feel the need to get away from our work, our environment or our “everyday” lives. If the stress of the everyday is so high that you need to get away, one week is not going to solve anything. Sure, for that week, you’re likely to experience a reprieve. Yet, when that back-to-work Monday rolls around, so will that all too familiar stress.

Here’s why we shouldn’t need spring break.

Prolonged stress is harmful. Let’s be clear, when we talk about stress in this context, we’re talking about the negative stress that raises your “fight or flight” chemicals, creates unnecessary negative emotions like anger & fear and keeps our focus narrow on the stressor. When a significant portion of our lives are in this kind of stress, studies show that our performance suffers as well as our short and long-term health.

This is where your mindset comes into play. When you have a growth mindset, as Carol Dweck calls it, you believe that you can learn from all experiences. You can do hard things, you can experience setbacks & failures and fall on your face from time-to-time AND not let those events lead to the stressed out feelings. With a mindset that you will grow no matter the experience, you will be less likely to experience prolonged stress… and therefore NEED a spring break.

Direction of your energetic movements suffer. You’re probably aware of the idea of moving toward pleasure or away from pain. In short, it means we are doing something because we want something good to happen (pleasure) as a result or we’re doing something because we don’t want something bad to happen (pain).

We can take this energy into all things. We start to see the world through the lens of moving away from pain. The problem of always moving away from pain is that we can start to allow fear to creep in because we think if we’re not perfect or good enough, we’ll experience pain. It’s like the scene in Indiana Jones when the boulder is chasing him. He is running from the pain of getting crushed by the ball. He knows one misstep and he’s in great pain. Granted, he’s getting exercise, yet I think we would all agree there’s probably better, more positive ways to get exercise.

When we get in the habit of running from things, we live in a perpetual state that’s like Indiana Jones running from the boulder. When we’re in the habit of running toward pleasure, we can push ourselves harder for longer because we look forward to the results. We feel less tired because our energy is enthusiastic and less need of a spring break.

Let’s use spring break as a time that we want to experience with family and friends for the social connections and the fun experiences. Let’s resolve to elevate our mindset to one of growth and move toward pleasure on our daily goals so that we don’t feel the NEED to take a break.