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Take a walk, take a break, take a breath

About two or three times a week I’ll take a walk around Oxford. Well, I should say that I walk around the entire border of Oxford that is Mile Square.

After a long day of way too many classes and homework, I take an hour and a half to myself to just get outside to move around. I take a moment to breathe in some fresh air instead of the stuffy dorm ventilation I’d been getting all day.

Occasionally, I’ll listen to music, or I just listen to the ambient sounds that make up the heart of Americana that resides deeply throughout southwest Ohio.

After I return to my cramped dorm room, I feel a sense of joyous relief. I feel this sense that I had been missing every minute prior to this experience of forgetting about my academic responsibilities.

We’ve been going through a long and hard 11 weeks thus far, without more than a silly wellness day every couple weeks in place of our lost, but ever needed spring break.

Look, I could sit here and bash wellness days for the appearance-oriented effects resulting in the opposite of their intention to “nourish their minds, bodies, and spirits,” but I would rather give us all the chance to realize, for ourselves, how to benefit our mental wellness.

It's become increasingly and vitally important to give ourselves a moment. To take upon ourselves the responsibility to recuperate our personal mental health. Without the usual break from the grind of college, and especially online college, we have seen a massive hit to students’ mental health.

For those of us who have chosen to stay COVID safe and abstain from frequenting parties and bars, the rise in depression and anxiety rates has become far too real. At least some sense of loneliness and increased boredom has become the norm for those who have not experienced the harshest effects of isolation.

We’ve gotten to a point in this pandemic where we need to find the line between preserving everyone’s physical health while also curbing the negative impacts against our collective mental well-being.

We can’t start going back to parties and concerts because of the pain we have felt, but we absolutely must find ways to bring our minds back to that space we were once in before we were relegated to perpetual isolation and limited mobility.

Sure, Miami has counseling services for students who wish to go to therapy (and everybody absolutely should use this resource), but sometimes talking through one’s thoughts just isn’t what I want to combat every stressor.

Sometimes I find myself wanting to talk out my thoughts to figure out how I feel about a given situation But other times, I just want to take a walk or do something fun without worrying about anything at all.

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For the mental disparagements I have felt throughout my first year of pandemic college, I simply wish for a moment to relax, to take a breath and do something fun without the constraints of whatever paper I might have due the next day.

I suspect many other students have just wished for these simple outlets of self-interest as well.

Take a minute, right now, to think about what simple things make you happy.

Maybe it’s listening to a podcast every morning, or singing along to your favorite album. Maybe it’s taking a 4-mile walk around the town as I do.

We need a chance to rest during this long semester. No spring break has hurt students beyond what could have been feasibly expected.

I hope next semester will be better with the recent announcement that we will see in-person classes return to near full force

Maybe making friends in our classes after being vaccinated will finally bring us back to the mental state in which we so richly deserve.

But, that’s still a long way away.

We all remember the NFL Play 60 ads we used to see between episodes of iCarly and Spongebob as kids. The simple message of getting “active for at least 60 minutes a day.”

Okay, maybe an hour a day is a bit too tough for college students, but the core idea is important.

Everybody needs to press pause on the grind of life, to remove yourself, occasionally, from the bounds of our capitalist society that says work without a break.

So, take an hour now and then. Take a drive, do some yoga. Take a walk or watch your favorite movie.

All it takes is a small moment of unrestrained joy to completely change your week.