Dear students,

I hope you’ve settled into the rhythm of the spring semester and that you are taking advantage of the well-being days that have been built into the calendar to give you some time away from classwork. I encourage you to take this Thursday (and each of these well-being days) to rest, relax, and renew your energy reserves. Your wellness is foundational to your academic success, especially as you navigate this unprecedented environment.

Here are some recommendations I’ve always made when a student shared feelings of being overwhelmed with their classes and homework. I hope you’ll find them helpful tomorrow and as you go through the spring semester.

  • Make a plan to use your break time well. Plan for the break and for the days and weeks that follow. I know many of you use evenings, weekends, and holidays to complete homework and prepare for assignments due the next day/week. Hopefully, you’re all caught up and can take advantage of the scheduled down time. If you’re not, plan to take some time off where you can and prepare for the remainder of the semester. This is your time to step away from academic coursework. Whatever you do, make a plan so you can set aside classwork for a little while and enjoy some leisure time.
  • Get outside. Explore campus or other areas of our community (safely). Outdoor activity can break up the many hours we’re all spending inside and will give you the benefits of exercise. While you walk or hike, try to stay in the moment. Set aside worries and concerns. Hokie Wellness shared a basic approach to mindfulness copied below. Not only is it a great practice to reduce stress, it also heightens your ability to focus your attention, another important academic skill. Give it a try. Visit the Hokie Wellness site for more helpful tips.

    • Stress-Busting Strategy: 5 Senses
      Feeling overwhelmed or unfocused? Try out this simple mindfulness technique: To bring your awareness to the present, take a moment to identify one thing you can see, hear, smell, taste, & feel. Try to approach these sensations as if you’re experiencing them for the first time. Describe each of these findings silently to yourself.
  • Be creative. Paint, draw, sing, dance, cook, write, make. Do things that take you to a relaxed and expressive place. Don’t evaluate. Just have fun.
  • Take a media break. Even if only for a short time, turn off notifications. See the second point above. It not only reduces some stress, it’s an academic success strategy, especially during class or when you’re focusing on assignments.

Of course, you can build these kinds of activities into any day and I encourage you to do so.  February always feels like a long month, but spring is coming. Good luck and stay safe!

Rachel Holloway,
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs

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