For many Penn students, Spring Fling is an important opportunity to decompress, usually through some combination of live music, sunshine, and excessive drinking. While Fling is an important release for a student body that’s often overstressed and overworked, it’s also a reminder of the benefits of mixing in healthier forms of stress relief in between blowouts like Fling.
A classic strategy for dealing with the stress of life at Penn is to bottle everything up until there’s time to let everything go. Research suggests that this strategy, which leaves students stressed for days or weeks at a time, can lead to serious negative health outcomes, including difficulty focusing, fatigue, nausea, and even an increased risk of heart disease.
At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s far healthier to address emotions and stresses when they arise and to make de-stressing part of a regular routine in addition to the outlet of partying. In an environment where students often take pride in being almost impossibly busy, it might seem more efficient to only deal with the stress that has built up from social, academic, professional, and other parts of life in one fell swoop, but it’s just not nearly as effective.
Penn’s Wellness Week events, such as therapy goats and free donuts on Locust Walk, are not an adequate replacement for the real work that is still left to be done to help the numerous students on this campus who suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. They are, however, examples of small, fun ways to relax during the week.
Students do not have access to farm animals on an average school day. Still, taking study breaks, especially ones that involve some form of physical movement, has been linked to reduced stress and improved academic performance. Further, adhering to a regular sleep schedule, maintaining a healthy diet, disconnecting from social media and the internet, meditating, and finding an artistic or expressive outlet are all examples of small ways students can make a habit of taking care of themselves.
It’s also important to recognize that some issues will not be solved this way, and no one should be made to feel bad because their anxiety doesn’t go away after a 15-minute Netflix break. That being said, mental health is complicated, and a holistic approach to wellness on this campus should include an appreciation for the small ways that students can make their lives easier in addition to therapy and medical support for students who need it.
This isn’t groundbreaking. Most Penn students likely already understand the importance of prioritizing self-care, and many don’t do it anyway. It’s sad to see a campus where people compete to see who can take the worst care of themselves. Have fun this Fling, but try to have fun the week after, too, even if you have a midterm and three GBMs.
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