Dear Kelly,

I am exhausted from the fall, the holidays, school and work. I’m signed up for my spring classes, and I usually try to start my readings early, but I am just not feeling it. What do you do to help you stay motivated when you just want to rest and enjoy the break?

Wow, I can certainly understand where this reader is coming from. I am a firm believer in the saying, “There is a time for everything.” There is a time to jump ahead, but there is also a time to rest.

To be completely honest, when I lack the motivation to do something that I know needs to be done, I begin by asking myself why the motivation isn’t there in the first place. Nine times out of 10, the reason I procrastinate or can’t find the initiative to get started has to do with one single word: exhaustion.

Although I think it is great to get a jump-start on the next semester, I feel this reader really needs some downtime, and honestly, so many of us need it right now. We all need a moment to sit back, relax, and enjoy the peace and tranquility that comes with the winter break.

I believe that’s the whole reason we have three weeks off between the fall and spring semesters, so we can all find time to re-energize. We have spent the last four months writing papers, reading chapters and scholarly articles, looking at and conducting research, and studying countless hours for exams, all while working and juggling home and family. Winter break is a moment for us to spend time with our families and concentrate on the joy of the holidays. In addition, the break allows us to focus on our relationships and also provides a mental intermission where we can, in my opinion, reboot our frontal cortexes so that we can prepare for the spring semester.

And you know what? It’s OK to take a break. I encourage you to allow yourself the time to breathe, relax and spend time focusing on other things. Think about it: When classes are in session, they take priority most of the time. You have schedules and due dates to meet, group projects to work on, quizzes to study for, chapter readings and discussions you are responsible for, and from what I can tell, you are right on top of all of that. You totally and completely dedicate yourself to what needs to be done, and you prioritize your schedule to ensure it happens. So much so that you’re seeking advice because right now you just don’t have it in you to jump ahead of the next set of classes. You don’t sound like the type of student who isn’t doing well but rather the kind of scholar who pours their heart and soul into everything they do. And for that, you deserve a break.

Allow yourself to have some time to unwind and do other things. Since you already have your materials for next semester and are driven to start early on the readings, designate a time where you can begin to do that. For the majority of us, classes start on Jan. 10. If you have the ability to do so, give yourself from now until Jan. 3 to just enjoy some much-needed relaxation. Enjoy the holidays, spend time with family and friends, and do the things you love to do. Then, on Jan. 3, you can begin preparing for the spring semester.

Determine what you want to get done, and schedule it out for that week, so when the first day of classes comes, you are ready.

By doing this, hopefully, you won’t just be ready to begin again, but you will be re-energized and focused on accomplishing the goals you have set for yourself. Goals that will advance and benefit you and bring you to the future that you have worked so diligently to achieve.

You have it in you to be successful; I just advise learning to recognize when your body and mind need some time to relax and re-energize. So allow yourself some downtime, and you may find that when you do that, you will come back ready, motivated, recharged, and laser-focused on accomplishing the next semester.

As always, I wish you health, happiness and continued success throughout your journey. Happy holidays!

Kelly Browning, a master’s student and student ambassador at the Henry County Regional Academic Center, answers questions from the Mercer community. Email her at or fill out our online form to submit your question anonymously.


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