Due to the COVID-related changes to the academic calendar, the University of Massachusetts Amherst implemented two Wellbeing Wednesdays in lieu of the spring break and long weekends that usually occur during spring semester. On February 24 and April 14, classes are cancelled, encouraging students to take care of their mental health and wellness in the midst of the pandemic. Here's a recap of my experience with the first of the two Wellbeing Wednesdays, which ultimately culminated into a wellbeing weekend for me!
On the morning of February 24, I received a text from my sister, who is a freshman living on campus at UMass Amherst.
“We’re going out to a bonfire today. My group signed up for late night, but we could only get the 12:30 p.m. slot. There’s gonna be food trucks and stuff,” it read.
As it turned out, UMass Amherst was offering multiple events to support students on this day—PondFIRE being one of them. Students could sign up in small groups to have warm, safe, outdoor bonfire gatherings by the campus pond.
My first reaction to the news was, “LUCKY! I love bonfires!” My second—which I didn’t express through text—was, “I wish I was back on campus too.” I was going to have to spend my Wellbeing Wednesday in my hometown, but it was still going to be great. I just knew it.
My boyfriend picked me up at around 11:45 am so we could obtain our Wendy’s order by noon. It may not sound like the healthiest choice for lunch, but burgers, fries, and quality time are things that I don’t get often these days, solely due to the nature of the pandemic. I believe that everyone’s self-care needs are different, and for me that day, I needed a treat.
We had a wonderful car lunch date at a local park while drinking strawberry lemonade, listening, laughing and singing along to the song Lemonade by Jeremy Passion—a feel-good ukulele track that gained popularity in Filipino-American meme culture.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the park, and I can honestly say it was the most sunshine and fresh air I’d gotten in so long. I definitely feel like we got into the spirit of Wellbeing Wednesday.
On Thursday, February 25, I practiced wellness in an unlikely setting: online class.
I’m in the SBS in D.C. 2021 cohort—an opportunity provided by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) to intern in Washington D.C. over the summer. In preparation, we meet in a weekly class setting from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays.
That week, we were joined by admissions counselor Xiomara DeLobato for a workshop on navigating identity and bias.
One of my favorite activities from our Zoom breakout rooms was practicing the art of active listening with a partner while answering the prompt, “What do you need to leave behind in order to be more present for this class session?”
I realized that I needed to leave behind any stress that came from my to-do list that was quickly piling up as the semester progressed; I would get my tasks done after, but in that moment I just needed to be completely there. My partner could relate to the feeling of being overwhelmed and unmotivated. It was a manageable feeling at this point, but could sometimes get to be too much if it weren’t for wellness breaks.
This activity really set the tone for the rest of my week. I decided that even while doing mundane tasks or assignments, I would be more cognisant of when I was being present and when I was drifting away into the mindset of overwhelmed and unmotivated.
Put simply, Friday was a sleep day.
I had strategically planned out my schedule so that I would not have any classes on Fridays, so aside from a few meetings and working some assignments that were due Sunday, I was able to have plenty of time for quality naps.
My Saturday was the visual representation of the YouTube video “lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to.” It was very “chill.”
I enjoyed some delicious Bigelow green tea that I won from a giveaway sponsored by @bigelow_umass on Instagram. All the while, I stayed present in the moment, working on summer internship applications.
Sunday was a deadline day. I had quite a few writing assignments to finish before midnight!
Knowing I’d be busy, I started my day off with the best foot forward. My favorite part of my morning routine is immediately getting up to brush my teeth. This is my time for myself when I listen to upbeat or soulful music and dance around in front of the bathroom mirror.
When I need a little extra TLC, I recite self-love affirmations at my reflection. This method doesn’t always work for some people, but I find it uplifting to be able to say outloud to myself things like, “I am inherently valuable. I’m doing enough. I have enough. I am enough.”
I finished off the morning with some journaling. The prompt was, “Things I need to let go right now to be more present.” Being present helped me stay focused, and I was able to finish my work well before the deadline.
I intend to continue to be present going into this new week, and I very much look forward to the next Wellbeing Wednesday.