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The Scarlet & Black

Annual Wellness Fair encourages students to examine personal relationships to health

By Eva Hill

With midterms approaching, many students are feeling the stress of studying and homework. The combined responsibilities of schoolwork, jobs and extracurricular activities can make it easy to forget to take care of yourself as the pre-spring break crunch hits. To help students take a breather and combat stress, many organizations worked together this past Tuesday evening to present the 11th annual Wellness Fair, an event run by Student Health and Counseling Services, Academic Advising and the Title IX office. Connie Herchek and the Office of Wellness and Prevention planned and organized the event, which featured tables from the Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice, Tea Time, the Peer Educator Program, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Asexual Support Network, Intercultural Affairs and the Student Garden, among others.

The fair took place throughout the Joe Rosenfield Center, with each organization stationed at tables throughout the first and second floor lobbies. Some stations had activities, such as planting a nano-garden (a tiny garden in a plastic cup with instructions on how to care for the seeds inside), making a stress ball and sending a thank-you note or other card. Others had email list sign-up sheets and Post-It stations to answer questions such as “To me, wellness means…” Responses ranged from “stopping homework at 10 p.m.” to “Swing and Contra” to “League of Legends.” In JRC 101, students had the opportunity to participate in a labyrinth walk, which consisted of silently following a winding path laid out on the floor to the center of the room.

Peer Educator Eliza Bunnell ’19 discussed what the word “wellness” means to her. “I think it looks slightly different for everybody, and it has physical components, mental components, emotional components, and they’re all tied together, they all affect each other. For me, what that looks like is making sure to have a strong support system of friends, but it really means something different to every person,” she said.

Joyce Stern, Dean for Student Success and Academic Advising, also gave her perspective on wellness among Grinnell students. “I tend to think about wellness as more about balance, as opposed to just ‘everything’s great,’ because that’s more realistic. And it also comes with just a sense of well-being in general, which to me isn’t necessarily just about your health, but it’s about feeling okay in the world and feeling okay here, feeling okay in this space, and I think all of those things are important for students,” she said.

The fair encouraged students to reflect on their own experiences with wellness on campus. Rachel Snodgrass ’21 discussed the challenges of balancing academics with extracurricular activities and personal moments of wellness. “Lately, I feel like I’ve taken on too many responsibilities, so for me most recently, wellness has been thinking about where I can step back and take more time to exercise and sleep and hang out with my friends, and not work myself or overcommit myself too much so that I can actually have time to relax in addition to doing my schoolwork and being involved in the campus community. So I think [the wellness fair] is a good opportunity, especially at this time of year, to remind students to eat well and relax and take care of themselves,” she said.

Stern acknowledged the challenges of balancing multiple commitments at the College, as well. “I feel like that to have that grounded sense of belonging here is really important to be able to do all the other things that we ask students to do, to stretch themselves, to learn, to engage with the community,” she said.

Though the Wellness Fair has now passed, there are still plenty of ways on campus to take some time for yourself and give your mind a break from the stress of daily student life. One such resource is the Wellness Lounge, which now features not one but two massage chairs, as well as board games and comfortable seating. In addition, the lounge hosts an event every Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. called Tea Time, in which students can relax and enjoy a cup of fancy tea with their peers.

Various booths at the Wellness Fair provided information, resources and activities to students looking to improve their overall wellness. Photo by Scott Lew.
Students were able to walk through the labyrinth as part of the annual Wellness Fair. Photo by Scott Lew.
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