We are all familiar with the challenges that coincide with winter.
The weather gets colder, the sun goes down earlier and the once vibrant colors of the outdoors get duller.
People slowly but surely migrate inside and a hibernation period begins, as we await for the signs of spring to show.
For many, these winter blues have been amplified by living through a pandemic.
COVID-19 has placed us in the strictest form of isolation, making typical winter pastimes a thing of the past. Snowball fights in the park and hot chocolate with friends are being replaced by extended quarantines and Zoom chats.
In a time when physical health takes precedence over everything, we often forget how much our mental health matters too.
As college students, we have had to collectively mourn experiences that were once the status quo. Students are sharing a feeling of powerlessness, struggling to make the most of a time that looks drastically different from what it should be; the best four years of our lives, preoccupied by remote learning and surveillance testing.
School now only exists on a computer screen. We spend countless hours on Zoom, doing homework in the exact same environment we take class. Despite not being able to do much physical activity, students feel constantly emotionally and physically drained.
Lehigh has acknowledged the effects of Zoom exhaustion and the mental difficulties that come with online school.
In a recent survey done by Lehigh’s Office of Institutional Research & Strategic Analytics, students mentioned that mental health concerns related to two of the three biggest concerns this past semester.
“Of those surveyed, 52.8 percent said they were ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely’ concerned about their mental health, and 53.9 percent were ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely’ concerned about the mental health of their family and friends,” the survey said.
Lehigh has utilized programs such as Peer Health, which allows student advisors trained by Health Advancement & Prevention Strategies staff to advance the health and safety of their peers. Additionally, the university provides mental health resources at the counseling center.
This semester, Lehigh began providing students with free premium memberships for Headspace, an online mediation service and mental health resource app.
The school has also held many Zoom events for freshmen to attend and get to know each other to make up for the lack of in-person activities.
Lehigh has also directed its professors to lighten workload during these difficult times, which. They too know what we have lost from our educational experience because of COVID-19.
Despite all of this, being a student throughout the pandemic remains exceptionally hard. The once thought challenges of balancing an academic and social life are only complicated by the stressors of positive tests and accidental exposures.
Plainly, it is exhausting. We are exhausted.
With the removal of spring and pacing break to limit students traveling to and from campus, it is easy for students and staff alike to feel overworked.
Despite rarely leaving the house, many students are feeling more overworked than ever, with exams proving more difficult and screen-fatigue proving increasingly detrimental.
As Lehigh expresses the need to look out for the wellbeing of students in regard to COVID-19, it is equally important to prioritize students in regard to mental health.
There is always more that can be done to help students throughout these difficult times, so we hope Lehigh will continue to build on what they have done so far and provide more resources to aid students in their mental health.
This could be anything from providing more resources through the counseling center, or just perhaps requiring professors to incorporate zoom breaks within class sessions.
It is comforting just knowing that Lehigh is trying to help their students face these challenging times, so anything they can do will make an impact.
Times of great challenge only increase the need to take care of ourselves and those around us. These circumstances have called upon us to be more empathetic toward the hardships of others, but also more forgiving of ourselves.
One day soon the last days of winter will turn to the first days of spring. As vaccine rollout continues to increase, one day we will also see the end of the pandemic and be able to share in the simple joys that seem so far.
For now, however, be kind to yourself. We are going to get through this.