Editorial: It’s OK not to be OK

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As the days become colder and the semester starts to ramp up, additional stress is a natural part of the fall semester. Add on an abnormal campus atmosphere and a grieving period about what life at Lehigh “should” look like, it’s the perfect recipe for a bout of seasonal frustration and sadness.

While these are natural parts of the calendar year, this year has been exceptionally hard on all of us, and we want you to know that you are seen, heard and understood by your classmates and peers.

Now more than ever, it is of utmost importance to find things outside of your daily tasks and routine that create a little extra happiness and joy. Self care means many things to many different people, therefore, it’s important to find what works for you as we gear up for colder months ahead.

Taking mostly remote classes leaves us indoors for a majority of the day, and even the 10 minute walks between classes across campus probably provided you with more mental clarity than you realized in years past. 

Fresh air and sunshine are linked to increasing our Vitamin D levels, which has been proven to regulate mood, thereby making it crucial to spend more time outdoors while it is still warm. This can mean taking your homework to a picnic table outdoors, opting to walk to run a few errands instead of driving or simply taking a break from the academics and sitting on your porch or the UC front lawn.

Another step you can take proven to help elevate your endorphin levels, which enhance a positive mood, is getting active. While we can’t all spend as much time at Taylor Gym as we used to, there are still a plethora of ways to get moving outside the gym or from home. 

Walking to Saxbys, renting a bike and taking it out on the South Bethlehem Greenway or spending a few minutes stretching and clearing your mind can have a tremendous impact on how you handle stress both physically and mentally.

While these tips and tricks may seem simple, they have the ability to contribute to your overall mood immensely.

That being said, the most important step you can take is to loosen the reigns and pressure you put on yourself in all realms this semester. It is OK to feel like you aren’t in the exact same routine and grind that you have been in semesters past. In a time when quite literally nothing is how it used to be, you can’t expect to be falling into old patterns that fit a different type of school setting.

Recognizing that things are different and that it’s OK if you feel different is the most crucial mental hurdle to cross while we try and navigate the way the world at this point in time.

Lehigh by nature is an incredibly competitive and stress-inducing campus. Almost 7,000 high-achieving students in a fast-paced, busy culture environment can cause an immense amount of anxiety. While it is easy to get wrapped up in that mindset, it is also important to reflect on all the hard work and tenacity that you endured to get here — and you’ve persisted throughout your time here.

At the end of the day, it is absolutely necessary that you be kind to yourself. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that in the grand scheme of things, certain stressors probably aren’t as important as they once used to be. Although we are in a new environment compared to where were were eight months ago, it’s important to recognize that we don’t need to get tripped up on the smaller stuff.

As we enter a new and unfamiliar normal, one thing has not changed: The Lehigh student body is here to support one another. Remember all that you have overcome these last six months, and give yourself the grace to put yourself first as we navigate this semester. 

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