Last semester, Temple University added a fall Wellness Day to the academic calendar, giving students a break in the 10-week run from Labor Day to Thanksgiving. This spring semester, there are no scheduled Wellness Days.
Temple initially introduced Wellness Days in the Spring 2021 semester to mitigate the loss of spring break due to COVID-19 concerns.
Although COVID-19 no longer impacts the university significantly, Wellness Days provide students with a break from their coursework to prioritize their mental health. In February 2023, half of young adults ages 18 to 24 reported anxiety and depression compared with nearly a third of adults overall, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
An annual mental health day does not demonstrate Temple’s consideration of students’ mental health. The university should encourage students to prioritize their health and help them avoid burnout by implementing permanent Wellness Days into both the fall and spring semesters.
“We are not machines, we need time to breathe and weekends aren’t enough for that,” said Kas Saidji, a freshman film major.
Except for study days, Temple’s academic calendar doesn’t include time off before or after spring break, which typically lasts roughly seven to eight weeks, respectively. This extensive schedule can make coursework, combined with finals season, feel more challenging and unending than if it were split up by Wellness Days.
Grinnell College in Iowa introduced two Working Differently Days per semester, when all school activities, including classes and athletics, are canceled, NPR reported. During their Spring 2022 semester, Grinnell offered one Working Differently Day on different weekdays during each full month of the semester, which they claim allowed students, faculty and staff to take a break from their hectic schedules and focus on their well-being.
Spring break occurs halfway through the spring semester, which gives students a week off at an ideal time to relax and recharge for the remainder of the semester, wrote Assistant Vice Provost Donna Lamborne in an email to The Temple News.
“In the fall, the week-long fall break is scheduled during Thanksgiving week, which is much later in the semester,” Lamborne wrote. “We inserted a wellness day in October to give the students a much-needed day for rest and wellness in the middle of the term.”
However, both semesters still have long periods without a pause. Breaks throughout the semester can help students who struggle with their mental health or those who are overwhelmed with coursework have time to take care of themselves. Temple could implement two days off during fall rather than one before the break, and one day off in the spring before and after the break.
Approximately half of college students feel moderate psychological distress, and 22 percent reported feelings of severe psychological distress, according to last year’s National College Health Assessment by the American College Health Association.
“Your stress has the most damaging effect as it accumulates, and so having just any ability to get a break from it, or have a little bit of time, which can help reduce the feeling of pressure on you, it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be useful,” said Kareem Johnson, a psychology professor.
The fall Wellness Day was held on a Friday because the university holds the fewest number of classes on Fridays and it offered students a long weekend, Lamborne wrote.
However, having a Wellness Day when the fewest number of classes take place limits the initial purpose of the mental health day. Many students will not benefit from a day off when they had no classes scheduled in the first place.
Temple should implement Wellness Days on various days throughout the week to ensure all students can benefit from the accommodation.
Academics and procrastination are the two most common causes of distress for students. Procrastination is strongly related to burnout, or emotional exhaustion, according to a 2019 study by the National Library of Medicine.
Prolonged stress about piles of coursework can contribute to burnout. Splitting up the overwhelming amount of work with some time off can motivate students to overcome the rest of the semester.
“It’s nice to have at least one day where I don’t have to worry too much about assignments and classes but I think if you’re only giving students one wellness day it’s not enough,” said Ava Summers, a freshman undeclared major.
Wellness Days should become a staple in the university calendar because, at some point every semester, all Temple students need a break as a reminder to take care of themselves.
Alexis Bray contributed reporting.
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