Kendra Johnson

March 10, 2020, the words COVID-19 showed up in many students’ campus email inbox for the first time. OBU President Heath Thomas sent out an email that was the first hint to many that they might not be returning to in-person classes after the break.

Ten days later, it became official.

And now it’s been a whole year.

Classes have been back in-person since Fall 2020—restoring somewhat of a sense of normality—but the aftereffects of the ongoing pandemic linger, even as the gradually increasing availability of vaccines promises hope for the summer and next school year.

One of the signs of COVID-19’s ongoing effects on campus life nationwide is the cancellation of spring break.

Many colleges and universities across the United States are cancelling spring break.

At OBU, this takes the form of replacing the typical week-long break with February Holiday, Feb. 23, and the upcoming March Holiday, Mar. 24.

The idea behind these cancellations is to protect students and faculty by reducing Spring break travel, which might otherwise contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

According to Stefan Sykes, reporting for NBC in Dec. 2020, “Colleges and universities are altering their 2021 calendars in an effort to curtail travel and avoid the packed beaches and parties of last year as coronavirus cases surge.”

While reducing travel is safer, the tradeoff is that students will not have a week off to rest and recuperate mid-semester, which renders balancing the always intense college student stress levels more difficult than usual.

According to PBS News Week, the CDC has reported that “three out of four Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 report poor mental health tied to the pandemic.”

So, finding ways to practice self-care and rest in the middle of such a hectic year is crucial for student health.

Students can use the following self-care and relaxation ideas to help them cope with the lack of an extended break.

  1. Have a spa night

Not just ladies! Everyone could use a soothing face mask and a foot massage every now and then. Consider gathering with your roommates and doing each other’s nails.

Or if you’re by yourself and you have a bathtub available to you, order some bath bombs online and enjoy sudsy luxury.

Just whatever spa-themed activities you plan, remember that skincare sheet masks are no substitute for proper face masks. Make sure your plans are safety-conscious and within OBU’s rules, especially if you’re hoping to gather your friends for a night in.

  • Take a hike

            Literally! Drive over to Lake Thunderbird and enjoy a walk around the trails, or even hop next door to the walking track around the airport right across Airport Drive from campus.

Exercise can be a great mood lifter and rejuvenator. Walking through the natural beauty of a state park, there’s so much gorgeousness to take in all around you that you won’t even realize you’re working out.

            Plus, outdoor activities are currently safer than indoor ones, when it comes to COVID-19 social distancing needs.

  • Scratch your creative itch

Order some coloring books, follow along with drawing tutorials on YouTube, make your own adorable knit hats, doodle… the possibilities are endless. Let your imagination run wild.

  • Watch a good movie

Especially one that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Bonus points if you make a blanket and pillow fort under your bed to go with the movie.

Dressing up as a character in the film and posting some great pictures of your outfit on social media is also a fantastic option.

And don’t forget the popcorn and Skittles!

  • Follow some guided meditations

Find one or two simple guided meditations that you connect with and keep them on your phone.

Feeling stressed before a midterm? Pop on your earbuds and play a short meditation video like the “3-minute Mindful Breathing Meditation (Relieve Stress)” from MyLife’s YouTube channel.

Longer meditation videos are also a great option for taking a mental break in-between evening study sessions.

  • Reach out to loved ones

Call someone you love but haven’t spoken to in a long time, like an aunt or grandparent.

If you’re worried about having anything to say, think of a few general things that have happened in your own life that you could share and also of a few general things you could ask them about. It doesn’t have to be a long call, and once you get started talking, often the rest of the conversation comes much more easily.

A short video call with a loved one, or even a plain old phone call, is a wonderful way to remind someone that they matter to you and it’ll often leave you feeling better about yourself, too.

  • Seek Help

Seeking professional help while dealing with stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns is an important part of self care and healing.

OBU’s Kemp Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic has services available to OBU students. Visit their webpage at http://www.okbu.edu/mft-clinic/index to learn more.

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