This August, Lawrence University received the 2016 Healthy Campus Award from the nonprofit Active Minds in recognition of recent efforts to increase awareness about campus mental and physical health. While this award and these efforts should be celebrated, it is worth noting that this award does not reflect the effectiveness of such measures or Lawrentians’ current state of physical and mental well-being.
Lawrence students might not be as healthy as they could be. This unhealthiness is due to an on-campus culture defined by overwork and overcommitment, which is a larger underlying issue that students and the administration need to tackle directly.
It is a quintessential aspect of being a Lawrentian to compete with our peers on how busy we are, how little we sleep at night and whether or not our schedule is planned down to the minute. Many Lawrentians feel pressured to always say “yes” to any new opportunity that arises, often leading to overcommitment. This culture of overworking ourselves becomes toxic when over-business, sleep deprivation and an unhealthy work-life balance are glorified. Many students deprive themselves of sleep in order to complete their many responsibilities, without considering the costs of doing so. According to WebMD, sleep deprivation increases stress, lessens one’s ability to concentrate and can even increase the possibility of death due to various illnesses. In other cases, many students resort to abusing drugs and alcohol to a severe extent on weekends to cope with accumulated stress of the week. While partying hard may actually be a stress-reliever for some, for other students this method of coping is not only ineffective, but dangerous.
As Lawrence students, we need to remember that we are people—not machines that can run forever and recharge only every so often. Students should make a conscious effort to know their limits and take time for self-care. It is important to understand that it is okay not to be busy, to have a blank schedule once in awhile and to take breaks. Additionally, although the Wellness Committee is making headway with its new initiatives, their efforts also need to focus on battling this culture directly by facilitating honest conversations about this harmful culture of overwork. A combined effort from both students and the Wellness Committee would be necessary to make these changes happen.