Space to Recover

Coughing and sneezing; classes and practices with half of their students; bags under everyone’s eyes: these are all symptoms of a community stricken by the spread of the flu and other illnesses. While winter has traditionally been a difficult time for students due to Seasonal Affective Disorder and the long time between breaks, this winter has been especially tough due to the spread of influenza on campus and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic.

As students with the flu are overwhelming the Health Center, it has been unable to provide proper care to everyone in need. Also, because everyone lives in such close quarters, it is easy to become infected. Adding to the gravity of  the situation, many students, especially those who live in Asia and Europe, are worried about their families living in the affected areas affected by the coronavirus. These stresses have only added on to the stress of academic life and school activities, which have continued at the same hectic pace.

With these additional sources of stress, students are likely not able to learn as effectively or focus as fully on school. Especially in a culture that emphasizes overachievement, it is easy for students to neglect their health by working too hard. If students are constantly too stressed, they are also more susceptible to sickness.

With the widespread flu on campus and the coronavirus epidemic, staying healthy should be the number one priority for everyone. However, the overwhelmed Health Center is a clear sign that the community is hurting and needs space to recover. Administrators should acknowledge this problem. It’s not enough to tell students to make healthy decisions. It can be very hard to make healthy decisions when students are stressed and tired.

We truly appreciate the Health Center staff who are taking care of ill students, counselors who are helping with mental health, and TLC staff who are helping students reduce stress and anxiety. However, the school can make broader efforts to help students on a larger scale. To ensure the safety and healthiness of the community, the school should provide more spaces for community members to recover from illnesses and take the initiative to create more opportunities for wellness.

As a community, we would all be healthier and better prepared to learn if we had more space to recover and care for ourselves. This might mean having an additional day off from classes for students to catch up on work and rest. The last Wellness Day was in the fall; maybe it is time for another one. Opening up a relaxation and wellness/de-stressing room would also be helpful. The Relaxation Room outside the Seminar Room remains currently empty and unused, the door locked.

Schools will always contain some element of stress – this is uncontrollable. But what the school and the administration can control is the amount of recovery that students get. Hopefully, the worst of the flu season will be over soon, but if illnesses continue to persist after spring break, or even in the future, members of the administration should take this message into account.