Papa's morning walk

Columnist Cameryn Schafer discusses the expendability of motivation and how she is recharging with family time at the lake.

Schafer's grandfather "Papa Jim" leaves to take a hike in the morning and returns just in time for family breakfast.

Editor's Note: This column is a part of a series called “I’m hyperfocusing on...”.

My whole family is currently taking a vacation. It’s the same vacation that we take every year, at a little local park called Willow Lake. It’s only 5 miles away from our hometown, so we can have all 17 members of the extended family out there and if something comes up, we can be back in town in no time at all. I don’t even have to hire a babysitter for my reptiles because I can come home and take care of them on my own without a problem.

Some years, certain individuals are busier than other years. When my mother was the manager of the local swimming pool, she’d be in and out all weekend making sure the pool was stable and ready for opening day. This year, one of my cousins has been back and forth for work. Another cousin is taking summer classes at her university and has to go home to work on homework because there’s neither cell service nor WiFi at the lake. My uncle is opening a bakery in town and taking ministry classes, so he’s had to make the trip home for each of those. And with my brother at boot camp, he’s allowed one hour of phone calls on Sundays, so my immediate family plus some come back to town to talk to him.

Regardless of all the things life throws our way, we still spend these four days at the lake, spending time as a group. We might fish, kayak, hammock, hike, solve jigsaw puzzles, have a barbeque, swim, ride bikes or have a bonfire. It really doesn’t matter what we do. What does matter is the break we take from society. For my mother, it’s been a chance to process the emotions she’s been pushing down for weeks. For my sister, it’s been a chance to rest from her four ongoing sports. For myself and the other cousin in college, it’s a chance to catch up with family after a year away.

Hammocking sister

Cameryn Schafer's family spends their Memorial Day weekend taking a break from their busy lives. Seen here is Schafer's younger sister sitting in a hammock after a tiring kayak trip around the lake with cousins.

Especially with the adjusted university dates this year, it’s important for everyone to take a break. We’ve been running ourselves into the ground to maintain a student lifestyle, and it isn’t the most sustainable way to live. Most of us have summer plans, and that’s healthy. However, to jump straight in to those plans without giving ourselves a break from the grind can be detrimental to mental health.

Motivation is a finite resource. If we never take time to slow down and recharge, that motivation can and will run out. I feel that the term “senioritis” doesn’t truly convey the gravity of expended motivation. Senioritis is really just burnout. Anybody can experience it at any point in time. The solution isn’t to push through but to take a break. Give your body time to catch up on sleep, get a functional diet together and spend time doing things that make you happy. Pushing through burnout only makes the situation worse. Jumping from one busy season into another without taking a break will eventually lead to burnout. “Me time” is important for preserving your motivation, and taking a break from the grind can be the healthiest option.

Our four days at the lake aren't our only opportunity to take a break throughout the year, but for my family, it’s one of our only designated breaks that allows everybody a chance to recharge and prepare to head into the next season with a renewed motivation. Your break might not be four days at a lake; it might just be a weekend of Netflix and self-care or a day without a to-do list. Whatever it is, make sure to get your break in before the motivation to keep grinding is completely expended.

cameryn schafer profile

Cameryn Schafer is a senior majoring in dietetics and animal ecology pre-vet with a minor in classical studies.

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