Wetenschap - 6 juli 1995

Vacations are Vital

Vacations are Vital

Taking a break for the summer is not only a fun way to enjoy the season when the weather is supposedly good, or at least less grey than the other seasons in the Netherlands, but stopping work or going on any kind of vacation can be vital to one's productivity and health.


The student psychologist, Ben Riksen of Welzijnzorg located in the Hotel de Wereld, goes further, Taking a vacation, or just stopping work is not a luxury but a necessity." Both the psychologist and the student physician, Dr. Andre Godkewitsch see more Dutch than foreign students. The psychologist offers the explanation, Maybe their contact with the Dean's office is sufficient, or maybe they just don't know about me or would rather see their personal physician." But Dr. Godkewitsch does draw comparisons, however, between native and foreign students: Yes it is true that all the foreign students we see face very strict time schedules for the completion of their work, but all students face what we call stress mechanisms. There are external mechanisms which cause stress, such as the programme one chooses or living situations, but sometimes the internal mechanisms of how much we expect from ourselves and what we think that we can accomplish wit
hout taking time for ourselves - these things can have an even greater effect than the external mechanisms." Because stress and overwork can have somatic (physical) and psychological effects, different people experience different signals and require different kinds of help.

In discussing the kinds of unique pressures facing foreign students, psychologist Ben Riksen sees the move to a new country and adjusting to an unfamiliar culture, weather and food all as potential causes of stress. This is in addition to the stresses of having tocomplet demanding programmes within a limited amount of time: You can get into a cycle where you are so busy that you can't even stop working during the day or take a break. This is bad because you are convinced that you can't stop, so you don't, and the situation just gets worse." Dr. Godkewitsch calls this a very vicious circle. He admits, It can be pretty hard to sell the idea of taking a break to someone who is stressed and overworked. Sometimes it takes several consultations before somebody can really be convinced that they need to take time for themselves, take a break during the day, or stop for personal reflection or a quiet time - anything."

Sick

Both professionals see students usually once the problems have really set in. They come to us when they feel sick: headaches, stomach problems, concentration difficulties, even memory problems, a lack of motivation and irritability are just some of the symptoms of serious stress," tells the doctor. Psychologist Riksen believes that, The key is not just stopping work and going on a holiday for a while, because when you come back to your work you are still faced with the fact that it is necessary to change the way you do things. It is hard to convince people that working less and fitting in time for sports or a hobby or another form of relaxation makes you more efficient and happier. But certainly any time a person takes for him- or herself is good. A holiday in the summer is an excellent idea. You don't need to go far away: the important thing is to take distance from one's work."

Foreign students will have to take the vacation initiative themselves. Mr. Kamphuis of the Dean's office indicated that at the present there are no plans for organizing official getaways or trips. The Foreign Students Dean's Office made earlier attempts to organize a trip to Paris which fell through because of a poor turn out.

During the summer it could be easy to just keep going with work and projects. When is the right time to take distance from one's work? Dr. Godkewitsch offers the following advice: Everybody needs to have some leisure time. It may be a few minutes during the day or a couple hours a week. Stretching that out over a few days or a couple weeks - well that is what we call a vacation. People should not see the vacation, however, as the only solution. It is a means of taking the first steps in distancing oneself, but it does not provide structural solutions to a problem. I also see people who are really stressed and are very close to finishing something. In those particular cases it can be recommended that the person round things off first, and then take a break. But of course there are those people who believe that everything has to be rounded off before they can leave. They literally are busy every moment of every day, and only stop when they fall into bed at night. I think that
everyone would be a lot healthier if they just stopped once in a while and yes - a vacation is a good start."

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