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Mental Health and Self-Care for Students

By: Josiah Cook

It is hard enough to manage the high school in a normal year. There are finals, AP Tests, busy practice schedules for sports and theatre, not to mention all the struggles students face in their personal lives. This year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has made life much more difficult for everyone, and social distancing has become the new normal. With all of these changes happening in the world so rapidly, Wheaton North, like so many schools around the country, has had to adapt to the strangest of circumstances. At the beginning of the pandemic, school was all asynchronous and work was simply assigned without further lessons, which took some of the pressure off of students and allowed them to relax a bit while they process unprecedented circumstances.

Then, summer came and went, and, eventually, the first day of school came along. The announcement was made that students could follow a hybrid model, attending school two days out of the five and staying home for the other three, or if they chose to stay virtual, they wouldn’t have to come to school. However, the workload and responsibilities stayed the same and resembled a typical year, regardless of where students felt most comfortable learning. This has undoubtedly had a negative impact on the overall mental well being of students at Wheaton North. When asked in a survey how the COVID-19 school shutdown has affected their mental health, a student who responded said, “Bad. I feel less motivated to do anything and it’s hard to get basic tasks done sometimes. The only time I’m able to get anything done is under pressure, which adds a lot of stress to my life.”

The lack of motivation has certainly been a common theme among students at Wheaton North, as teachers don’t have the ability to assure that their students are doing their work by checking in person. The virtual setting also makes it so much easier to get distracted in class, as bedrooms (that have distractions students would rather be focused on) have had to be repurposed into makeshift classrooms. In this survey, students also reported increased feelings of stress and anxiety, as the inability to focus on schoolwork has led to students feeling disorganized and overwhelmed on top of worrying about the spread of a global disease pandemic.

Mental health is incredibly important, especially right now because there is so much that can be cause for worry. However, there isn’t one magic “cure-all” solution that can instantaneously improve how we feel. Practicing self-care can be an amazing way to improve your headspace, though, and it’s not difficult. Doing something that you enjoy and that makes you feel at peace can prevent burnout, reduce anxiety and increase happiness. The students who responded to the survey had some incredible ideas of self-care activities to improve their headspace.

Syd Mark, a senior, said “Ever since quarantine began, I have found it really interesting to look into what self-care really means. It's more than just physically taking care of yourself (doing a face mask, taking a bath, etc). It's taking the time to define what self-care means to you individually. Maybe self-care is calling a friend, meditation, going for a walk by yourself and listening to nature, reading/watching something for escapism purposes... Personally, my favorite self-care activities are journaling, reading, going for a walk while listening to an audiobook, and simple activities like making myself some peppermint hot chocolate.”

While the pandemic definitely has created things that are hard to do, like getting together with people in person, making a conscious effort to not let the stress of school impact life by doing some simple and enjoyable self-care activities like those mentioned above can make a world of difference.

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