I am in the first year of my PhD, and have been asked by a couple of people whether, given the full-time study which I am undertaking, I am allowed any breaks. The answer is, with an entire term of study already behind me, of course! The moment that you feel stressed or overwhelmed with your project, or what you are expected to do within a particular timeframe, it’s probably time to take a break.
I am lucky enough to not get stressed with academic work. I always ensure that I am as ahead as I can possibly be with regards to writing and researching. With my MA, as soon as an essay was set, I would begin to read fitting tomes and articles for it, and would start the writing process as soon as I felt ready to. I was then ready to submit said essay before a lot of my peers had even started to think about it. This perhaps seems overly organised to the average student, but for me, it works wonderfully. As the deadline looms, you don’t have to worry about whether you will be able to meet the word count, or whether you will have been able to read enough to structure a coherent essay that really says something. You will be there already. Whilst others are pulling frantic all-nighters in the library, you can sleep soundly, and perhaps think about that trip you want to take during reading week.
I took three weeks off over Christmas, in order to rest myself, and also so that I didn’t have to miss out on any holiday-based activities. I spent a lot of time with my family and boyfriend, saw old friends, visited family members, went on last-minute shopping trips with my sister, and spent whole days baking. I was able to read for pleasure. I could do all of this without feeling that I was falling behind in my studies, for everything had been taken care of. Yes, it initially feels like hard work when you decide to research and write a 2,100 word essay, which has a February deadline, before you go home for Christmas, but you can relax so much more knowing that it’s out of the way.
Whilst I’m not at the stage where I have prepared anything for conferences and the like yet, and probably won’t be for another year or so, I estimate, I feel as though if I want to take a week off around my MA graduation (which, incidentally, falls today!), or book a holiday with my boyfriend, I can do so. It comes at no detriment to my work, and I am fully of the belief that such relaxation makes me a happier and more hardworking person overall.
If you’re looking to take a break, I say go for it. As long as you won’t be falling behind in anything, and feel confident with what you have achieved to date, book that holiday, or take that long weekend to rest. Whatever you think to the contrary, you’ve more than likely earnt it.