As students experience a hectic return to campus, continue their schoolwork, and adjust to new guidelines surrounding COVID-19, it is important to remember that staying mentally healthy is also an essential component of physical health. Mental health has direct ties to physical health and being overly stressed can cause people to be more susceptible to physical illnesses and viruses. People tend to get more sick during midterm and finals season, and that’s not just because of the changing weather. As you deal with stress, your immune system becomes less effective because your body is trying to deal with internal stress instead of prioritizing protection from external threats.
The implications of taking away four-day this semester exemplify the correlation between mental and physical health as seen by students on campus. Although the Westmont administration surveyed students, many were upset with the decision to combine four-day with Thanksgiving break. Overall, Westmont’s decision to do this makes sense: preventing people from leaving campus will minimize the risk of bringing the virus back to campus, and they did spend a substantial amount of money testing everyone as they moved back in. While this decision caters to students’ physical health, ultimately, it does not value students’ mental health.
I respect this decision; I understand that it will protect campus from the risk of outbreak. I am simply saying that it is unhealthy to go two and a half months without a break, especially after failing to schedule an academic break while students were moving back onto campus. Westmont was looking out for the health and safety of its students when it made this decision, but it undermined its students’ overall well-being. The academic rigor of Westmont, in addition to the political climate, America’s persistent racism, and the pandemic, adds an enormous amount of stress to already demanding and trying times. We need to approach these issues effectively so as to remain healthy mentally as well as physically.
In my experience, one of the many blessings of going to a small school is that professors are very understanding and forgiving if you contact them about the need for an extension or excuse from class. Everyone is going through a lot right now, and it is necessary to give yourself an occasional break, for your safety and for the safety of those around you.
We didn’t get an official fall break, but here are some ways you can give yourself a rest:
Remember to take a break from studying and stressing. Take a nice shower, eat a good meal, get a good night’s sleep.
Spending time with friends — socially distanced and masked up, of course — and doing things you enjoy can drastically help your stress levels and keep you both mentally and physically healthy.
Visit the CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) website for more information about how to manage anxiety and COVID-related stress, as well as how to schedule a counselling appointment for a safe and confidential space to talk to a professional.
While staying healthy during the pandemic, we must take our mental health into account as well. Wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, and washing and sanitizing your hands regularly are great preventative measures; staying mentally healthy is simply another.