As college students across the nation head home for the holidays, they should be commended for their resilience and diligence while navigating college during a pandemic.
Most of us have never encountered the challenges of trying to juggle academics while facing a global health crisis. Students were met with new expectations and policies to keep one another safe. Many had to deal with the challenges of new online learning platforms.
Now, as they look to go home to celebrate the holidays, students will still be faced with the same challenges and must behave in the coming weeks in the same way they acted while on their college campus.
Safety has to be their top priority.
At Southeastern University, like many other institutions, we made the decision to transition to remote learning for the rest of the fall semester during the week of Thanksgiving. Our campus will still remain open for those who choose to finish the fall semester there. However, we wanted to provide the opportunity for our students to celebrate the holidays while cutting down on the back and forth travel across the country in order to minimize the spread of the virus.
With 56 percent of Americans planning to travel over Thanksgiving, it is imperative that students continue to follow the same guidelines that were provided to them by their university or college. We have encouraged students to be extra vigilant before traveling home and while traveling. The decisions you make now can impact your holiday plans.
For those traveling out of state, know what restrictions are in place at your destination. Monitor your health for symptoms of COVID-19. If you aren’t feeling well, be considerate of your family members and try to avoid attending gatherings.
The holidays are a time to spend time with the ones you love. If you want to host holiday gatherings, consider holding something outside, picking a well-ventilated space or limiting the number of people you invite. Encourage guests to wear masks unless you are eating and try to remain socially distanced. Continue to keep a mindset of caring for others.
The steps you take make a difference in protecting the loved ones around you.
Focus on your mental health.
Studies indicate that emotional well-being was the biggest challenge for students in the fall semester, with 44 percent of students struggling with stress, loneliness and anxiety. You don’t have to feel alone this holiday season. Take advantage of talking to a mental health professional. At Southeastern, we provide free telehealth services for all of our traditional students. We understand that the pandemic has negatively impacted many students and we want to support their academic journey.
Spend time socializing with your friends in a safe way. Studies show that social interaction is important to your mental health. It helps with your stress levels and can make you happier. If you are struggling with mental health issues, discuss it with someone you trust.
As you focus on your mental health, you also need to make sure you are taking care of your physical body. Make time to take walks outdoors, eat healthier, get much-needed sleep and exercise. This should be a season where you are able to refocus so that you can finish the academic year strong. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The people around you want to see you succeed.
Throughout the fall semester, I have been impressed with the commitment of our students and community to keep one another safe. This same responsibility needs to transcend into the holiday season.
The steps you take make a difference in protecting the loved ones around you. They might feel uncomfortable, but they are necessary for higher education institutions to continue to provide in-person classes in the spring.