COVID-19 Opinion

Making the Most of Mental Health Days

All images courtesy of Katie Morris.

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On March 31, Point Loma Nazarene University held a Mental Health Day where classes were cancelled and students were encouraged to take the day to focus on their mental health. This was the first of two Mental Health Days that are included in the Spring 2021 academic calendar, both serving as breaks from the altered Spring Schedule. Typically, a week-long Spring Break is held in early March as well as an additional week for Easter.

I was initially disappointed knowing my spring break would not be spent with friends who attend other universities. Eventually, I sucked it up and prepared for the jealousy that would accompany the many Instagram posts that would infiltrate my feed in March and April.

This motivated me to make the most out of the mental health days offered by PLNU, starting by collaborating with friends on what our itineraries would be.

Morning: On Wednesday, I woke up to the repetitive rings of my iPhone’s alarm clock at 4:45 a.m. Avoiding beauty sleep contradicts what many would consider to be a strong start to a mental health day, but my buddies and I planned weeks in advance that we would begin the day with a sunrise hike in the Mission Trails Regional Park. We set a rule to avoid checking our school emails for full self-care immersion, and prioritized two categories for the day: to be both physically and educationally active. 

We arrived at the entrance of the park at around 5:30 a.m. and scurried through the valley to the trailhead of Kwaay Paay Peak. The quickly rising sun and exercise helped us warm up as we began our 2.3 mile climb.

Reaching the top of the peak, the sun sprawled between North Fortuna and Cowles mountain. Purple wildflowers lined the vibrantly red trail, saturated by the spring rain from days before. The view served as a reminder of God’s work and was a great motivator for us to make the most out of the free day.

To spice things up, my two friends and I decided to run down the mountain. The wind violently brushed through our hair as we trotted down the hills. I embodied the pure feeling of exhilaration.

Noon: My friends and I parted ways after arriving on campus so we could shower and refuel. After lunch, we made a spontaneous decision to tour the museums in Balboa Park. The San Diego Museum of Art was on the top of my list of adventures, but unfortunately the majority of the museums were closed because it was a Wednesday. So our positive mental health would not deplete, we made lemonade out of lemons and ran errands that we had pushed off from earlier in the week. We spent an hour at Barnes & Noble, where I dove into the psychology section to find books that sparked more interest in my major.

Back on campus, I ventured to Sunset Cliffs with my camera to capture things that would lure my creative eye. It was a cool way to see the many ways students chose to spend their mental health day: some had brunch on the beach, some surfed, others played spikeball at Young Hall.

Night: When I made it back to my dorm in Hendricks, I ate a bagel smeared in Nutella while catching up with my roommate on our eventful days. I was grateful for the break, especially after having an overwhelming few weeks. After chatting with friends, it was gratifying to hear the many ways they chose to spend their time. It seemed like many students resorted to catching up on things they were lacking, whether that was sleep, socialization, exercise or school.

Even though we are stripped of a spring break this school year, what really matters is how we refill our cups. While the inclusion of mental health days is due to the circumstances of a pandemic, I would advocate for PLNU to continue having them in the years to come, if they are a realistic option in our academic calendar. Whether normal breaks are cancelled due to the pandemic or there are consecutive months without holidays, a mental health day would benefit students’ understanding and value of life balance. My friends and I are already planning our next excursion for the Mental Health Day in May.

By: Katie Morris