Can we catch a stress-relief break?

by Emma Maple | Staff Writer

Picture Caption: Students stress level are increasing due to COVID, lack of Christmas breaks, and now online finals. Photo Credit- “Stress” by topgold is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If Whitworth had to pick one year to offer increased access to stress-relief activities, this would be the year.  

Student’s stress levels are skyrocketing. According to Inside Higher Ed, students “mental well-being has been devastated by the pandemic’s social and economic consequences, as well as the continued uncertainty about their college education and post college careers.” Adding to stress, our fall break was canceled and Thanksgiving break shortened. These decisions left us less time to relax — and more time to stress – all culminating in what will probably turn into one of the most stressful finals weeks in all of Whitworth’s history.  

Yet, we see zero plans for stress relief activities from the library, which usually spearheads these events. Instead, student run organizations like Student Life and the Dornsife Center are offering a few small activities.  

These groups shouldn’t have to pick up the slack. The library should be finding ways to work around COVID restrictions. 

Let’s go back to finals week of fall semester in 2019. You’d walk into the library and see tables set up full of tea, coffee and snacks to give your brain fuel while you’re studying. After studying at a computer for a couple hours, you wander into the library classrooms where you can give your mind a break by playing with playdough, Legos, coloring books and puzzles. A different classroom is full of therapy dogs that you can pet, helping you to relax and destress. Once you’re in a happier mood, you go back to studying and stay there until 1 A.M. — the library’s extended hours for finals week.   

Walk into the library during fall semester in 2020 and you’re greeted with none of these activities. Because each of these previously mentioned events was hands on with a great risk of spreading COVID-19, none of them are offered this year. In 2020, you sit down and study for five hours straight. The lack of sporadic breaks, which according to Harvard Business Review “replenish our energy, improve self-control and decision-making and fuel productivity,” leaves you stressed and ready to quit school altogether. Before you’re even completely done studying, the library herds you out the door at 8 P.M. – shorter hours due to COVID-19. 

Two other organizations have stepped up to the plate. The Dornsife Center, which usually focuses on connecting students to service activists, switched their focus this year. Realizing the library wouldn’t have any events offered, they offered their first self-care zoom event.  

Student Life usually doesn’t do finals week activities because the students who run it are busy with their own finals. This semester, they’re offering to-go activity bags that the students can pick up at their own convenience.   

While these activities are great, they probably won’t be as effective as previous events. Because the library is the hub for finals week studying, offering events there means students don’t have to travel far to find a way to relax. Additionally, with the library in charge of these events, it leaves students in Student Life and Dornsife free to focus on their own finals.  

The library did have a hard year due to the death of librarian Kathy Watts. Additionally, COVID-19 has added complications to planning events. But the fact remains that after the library dropped the ball on planning stress relief events, the responsibilities fell to the students. 

Stress relief for one group of students shouldn’t have to come at the expense of other students’ schedules. Even though COVID-19 makes planning activities tough, options are still available. 

Hopefully the library will figure out how and start offering more activities in future semesters.