Kincart: Take Care of Yourself this Semester


Jonathan Wang

Student Eleanor Wachtel studying in Lassonde Studios in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jonathan Wang | The Daily Utah Chronicle

By Sydney Kincart, Print Chief, Opinion Writer


Once again, we find ourselves starting another semester in the thick of the pandemic. Utah has upwards of 700,000 COVID-19 cases, which is significantly more than this time last year. The state epidemiologist, Dr. Leisha Nolen, told Utahns that they should assume they have COVID-19 if they have symptoms. Yet, many of my classes remain in-person.

On Jan. 7, the U announced more COVID-19 precautions in addition to Salt Lake County’s mandatory mask order. Students are asked to get weekly COVID-19 tests, their COVID-19 vaccination and booster and to follow the 5-5-5 rule. This rule dictates that if you test positive, stay home for five days, get tested on the fifth day and wear a mask for five or more days around others.

In addition to the looming stress of the pandemic surge, we are starting classes. Many of us are going into classes with new professors, peers and classrooms. As we near two years of online learning, I find myself exhausted. It’s imperative we prioritize self-care at the beginning of the semester. By taking care of ourselves, we can endure the trials of yet another COVID-19 semester.

Wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing help protect against COVID-19. With the pandemic comes increased anxiety, stress, depression and insomnia. I experience these feelings most when I’m isolated while awaiting test results after an exposure. Mental health and physical health are closely related. Exercise, eating healthy and getting enough sleep will help us feel better. Elle Woods of “Legally Blonde” taught me this lesson best. Exercise produces endorphins that make one happier.

The beginning of the semester is a time to set habits. As we figure out our routine with classes, we can work, sleep and exercise in our schedules. I try to go to bed around midnight so that I can get about eight hours of sleep before my mid-morning classes. Luckily, exercising and sleeping can be done safely from home or socially distanced. At-home workouts or walks around the block are great ways to decompress.

Not only should we be making these habits, but we should prioritize them. It’s difficult to prioritize healthy habits since there isn’t an external marker of success like a timecard or grade report, but let’s do it for ourselves. If we can develop these habits because they are important to us, we exhibit intrinsic motivation which is crucial for the long-term achievement of goals.

Not only does the pandemic make school more difficult, but the spring semester is always a bigger adjustment for me. Adjusting from doing nothing to a full schedule is difficult. Over winter break, I read five books and watched countless holiday movies — I had time to prioritize my favorite activities. School, unfortunately, detracts from those hobbies, and I lose time for myself. I’ve tried to make my hobbies “portable.” I read during class gaps and almost always take a book with me in case of a spare moment. Cutting down on screen time can help prioritize our hobbies. It’s important to shift our mindsets and realize we are just as important as school and work. Thus, we need to schedule time for ourselves — and honor that time.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), other times called seasonal depression, can make the spring semester harder. Winter-onset SAD manifests as oversleeping, appetite changes, weight gain and lack of energy. In my experience, the worst part about SAD is that so much of it is out of my control. No matter how hard I try, I can’t control the weather. To ease seasonal depression, we can stick to a schedule. This helps improve sleep and alleviates symptoms of SAD. Also, keeping blinds open and taking trips outside when the sun is brightest alleviates SAD symptoms.

In addition to the pandemic and ails of the spring semester, we also face many systemic flaws. Many of us stress over the increasing cost of college. It shouldn’t be so expensive! We struggle with the looming threat of not only finding a job but finding a job that will serve the community. We often hear that we are supposed to find ourselves while in college — and that’s a lot of pressure. We are at a crucial point of development, and I am so scared just thinking about that fact. The pressure to find ourselves and to make college the best years of our lives is pervasive. In these cases, we need to take it day by day and do what feels best to us. It’s hard to tune out the outside pressures, but it’s essential to becoming your own person.

We also need to advocate for change so that policymakers act. We can’t let young voices be ignored. We’re students amid a near two-year pandemic and we are exhausted. We need policymakers on our team, making schools safer, more equitable and affordable. We need school administration to prioritize our health and safety.

The U administration needs to put students’ needs first. All classes should have an online option so that students with COVID-19 can get course content and those worried about attending class can do so safely from home. The U should have required COVID-19 testing at the beginning of the semester due to extensive travel. They should also return to mandatory weekly testing instead of the status quo encouragement of weekly testing. The U needs to put strong guidelines in place to help us protect others.


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