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In lieu of a spring break for this unusual academic year, Notre Dame has opted for a series of mini-breaks. These rest days are designed to protect the health and safety of the campus community not only by discouraging travel, but also by providing a brief mental respite for students and instructors. But what if your students are reluctant to put down their work and relax for 24 hours? Below are a few ways you can encourage students to take advantage of the downtime provided by mini-breaks.

Discuss the importance of rest and relaxation. We can’t remain well without taking time for physical, mental, and emotional restoration. Emphasizing this point to your students is one way to promote a culture of wellness in your classroom. Though personal wellbeing is more important than productivity, you can tell students, if it helps, that taking time to recharge can result in better productivity long-term. 

Carefully schedule assignment due dates. Notre Dame has requested that instructors refrain from holding exams or making projects due the day following the break. If you haven’t adjusted your schedule to accommodate the April 21 mini-break, do so as soon you can. If possible, consider working with students to collaboratively set assignment due dates, and try to remain flexible with individual students who are struggling. 

Build rest time into the course. Being thoughtful about your due dates is a great first step, but it might not be enough to encourage overwhelmed students to put down their work. Try incentivizing rest by making it a course requirement. Consider, for example, creating a low-stakes homework assignment that asks students to sit in a peaceful place on campus for 15 minutes without speaking or using technology; making ungraded journaling part of students’ weekly course ritual; or devoting three minutes of class time to a mindfulness exercise or to silent reflection. Bonus points if you can tie these activities in with your course learning goals. 

Share your own plans for the mini-break. Students aren’t the only ones who need rest and relaxation. Instructors do too! If you haven’t developed a plan to support your own wellbeing over the mini-break, make one, share it with your students, and follow through. Students will appreciate your example. 

Share resources for wellbeing. If students are not sure how to use their mini-break days, direct them to this McWell page, which not only lists wellness events for students but also information on the benefits of relaxation and a guide to creating a restorative routine. You can also direct students to the HERE page on emotional support and wellbeing, where they can find instructions for downloading the Calm app, which Notre Dame is providing to students free of charge. 

The next mini-break is on April 21. Encourage your students to take advantage of this rest time—and don’t forget to rest yourself!

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