I started the school year committed to practicing self-care. I promised I wouldn’t keep late hours, skip meals, procrastinate research papers, or cram for exams as I did in high school. I vouched to visit Pottruck four times a week, keep a journal, take walks by the Schuylkill, and go to bed early.
But, unfortunately, I’ve started to give up on those resolutions.
I’ve prioritized coursework and pre-registration over exercising and eating well. Yet, earning good grades in my classes isn’t as fulfilling as I anticipated; I spend too much time in Van Pelt and barely do anything for myself.
It’s around the time of year when the resolutions we’ve made start to fall victim to midterm season and club responsibilities. But we need to resist giving in to our monotonous routines and take better care of ourselves, because practicing self-care allows us to combat the anxiety that comes with being a student and find joy in our everyday lives.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that 85 percent of college students “felt overwhelmed by something they had to do within the past year,” and according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 30 percent reported feeling “so depressed it was difficult to function.”
Penn is not immune to these statistics; we struggle with mental health here too. And in light of recent events, it’s a hard time to be a student here. We have undergone this year the loss of four students, the potential repeal of DACA has left many international students anxious and uncertain, and the Task Force on a Safe & Responsible Campus Community has failed to effectively address sexual assault on campus.
We have also paid witness to the shortcomings of mental health resources on campus. Securing an appointment with Counseling and Psychological services is difficult and can leave us feeling like there’s no one here to help us. Practicing self-care is hard work. But even when Penn can’t care for us, we should try to be kind to ourselves and others.
Despite numerous students’ requests for better mental health resources at Penn, the administration has not implemented adequate strategies for improvement. While it's important to ask the University for help, it's also necessary for us to take action as individuals that help alleviate the anxieties and pressures of college.
After all, there are things we can do to combat our own mental health and stress issues that we are so vulnerable to as students.
However frustrating it may be, people constantly point to exercise as a means to relieving stress for a reason. 25 studies have found that working out can have a positive effect on preventing depression. Despite the challenges of motivating yourself to exercise, there are some easy, quick ways to work in physical activity that might be more engaging than waiting for a treadmill at Pottruck.
If SoulCycle is too expensive, The Philadelphia Museum of Art offers Dhyana yoga classes twice a week. Additionally, 34th Street Magazine recently published a guide to alternative exercise that offers unique fitness options. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also has helpful recommendations to stay in shape.
Another way to take a break and escape the Penn bubble is to explore Philadelphia. We often forget how lucky we are to attend school in the 5th largest city in America. From the Barnes Collection to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens to Sweet Charlie’s rolled ice cream there are so many parts of the city that are worth taking advantage of.
Even if it’s just reading a book outside or getting dinner with friends in Center City, we should set aside time to do things that make us happy. In college, it is easy to forget to take care of ourselves. The responsibilities of being a student are daunting. Fun and relaxation can seem trivial in the face of exams, job applications, and club obligations. We’re away from home; there’s no one to remind us of the importance of taking breaks for ourselves. But self-care is important, and however jam-packed our Google calendars are, we should make time to practice it.
ISABELLA SIMONETTI is a College freshman from New York. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. “Simonetti Says So” usually appears every Tuesday.
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