Do Wellness Days Really Work?

KEITH HARDT

It has now been one year since Bethany College implemented online learning to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Bethany College has done very well in controlling the spread of this disease. Weekly testing and vaccinated faculty members help the students feel safe while being on campus. Colleges and Universities around the country are cancelling spring break and replacing it with “wellness days.”

Most students look forward to their spring break but not just as a time they can go party for a week. Many students use that time to relax and mentally prepare for the rest of their semester. A school survey done by the University of Michigan says 83% of students said their mental health had negatively impacted their academic performance. A staggering 50% of students surveyed said they now struggle with depression, anxiety, or both. This is information is according to an article from Vox.com, titled “College Students needed a spring break for their mental health. COVID-19 took that away.”, by Maryah Gamar published in March 15th, 2021.

Gamar also mentioned a quote from Elizabeth Aranda, a psychologist at UC Berkly. Aranda stated that “During recent workshops with students, the most consistent theme has been “burn out” and what they really need after a year in isolation and stress is a break.”

Gamar had spoken with three college students to get their thoughts and feelings regarding the “wellness day” policies. The most impactful statement was made by a student from the University of Michigan, “Joe” 19. “I completely understand the validity of trying to prevent travel for COVID safety, but when you reduce a whole week to two days in the middle of the week, it takes away the chance to relax. The day before our wellness day, one of my professors sent an article about Zoom fatigue with tips on how to combat it. He told us to “Just relax and enjoy your next few days.” But it’s ironic because then we had an assignment due on Wednesday and a quiz on Friday, so I ended up working on those days off.”

Unfortunately this is a common occurrence with college students across the country. “Wellness days” do not replace the spring break students are used to getting. Every wellness day I have had this semester hasn’t been a day I can just relax. I have spent those days catching up on the constant flow of assignments we have had since January. When there isn’t an extended break given to students their “free” day is usually spent catching up on work because they haven’t had a break. I didn’t realize how important a spring break was until we didn’t have one.

I absolutely understand that Bethany College has to limit travel to control the spread of COVID-19. It’s just shame that a student’s mental health has to suffer because a minority of students can’t miss a spring break in Florida. The “wellness day” is a good policy, but there are things that the school could do to make it more effective for students.

The first change that should be made is that there shouldn’t be any assignments due on a “wellness day.” The other policy change that may help would be a campus wide “catch-up day.” Where classes are still in session and students are expected to attend so they can catch up on work they’re behind on in their courses. These “catch-up days” should be near of right before a wellness day. So when students get a “wellness day” it’s an actual free day when students can sleep in and relax for at least a day. Some may say that those “catch-up days” should just be done over the weekend. But then what time does that leave for students to have any time off? Something has to change in order to make these days more effective.

My professors have been understanding during this pandemic. But, professors also need time off to regroup mentally so they can teach to the best of their ability. With both the students and faculty working for months on end, there needs to be a way for people to have some sort of break. Spring break is not always just a time for students to party. It’s a time that’s important for their mental well-being.