This weekend, Counseling Services is beginning an initiative called Step Forward to encourage students to prioritize their mental and physical health by signing a pledge that they will enhance their sleep, nutrition, or exercise for two weeks.
According to Counselor Tiffany Bartell, 70% of Southern students that utilize counseling services get less than four hours of sleep a night, with many more not maintaining proper nutrition and regular exercise.
On Thursday Nov. 14, from 12-4 p.m., there will be a booth set up in the Student Center to kick off the three-day initiative.
Bartell said that students will be encouraged to sign a pledge committing them to improve one factor of life such as exercising more, drinking more water, eating better, sleeping more, or turning off technology 30 minutes before going to sleep.
Wristbands will be handed out that are color coded according to your pledge: blue is for sleep, green is for nutrition, and yellow is for exercise. Daily tips catered to each pledge will be given out to help maintain incremental and helpful change. The challenge will run from Nov. 15 to Nov. 29.
“Research shows that mental health is a growing issue across campuses nationwide, and so schools are really having to ramp up their focus on mental wellness. Not just in providing services but a way for students to be really aware of your mental life and how you think and feel,” Bartell said.
Specifically at Southern, on the last two years, there has been over 40% increase in the amount of students that have reported mental health issues, according to Student Development Vice President Dennis Negron.
Giveaways will be given out the week after the pledge is made. Gatorade with electrolytes will be given to those who pledged to exercise more. Small water bottle will be given for those who will drink more water. Belvita bars will be given to those who choose to improve their nutrition. And lavender products and earplugs will be given to those who pledged to improve their sleep.
Angelica Rodriguez, a student intern for the Community Pantry in Fleming Plaza, said, “We will be having granola, water, and gatorade to give to those who will be taking part.”
Bartell will partner with Michelle Mix, a medical professional from the Campus Health Clinic, to speak at Afterglow on Nov. 8 to discuss the ways that maintaining a good physical and mental health improve lifestyle.
“Students need to be reminded, encouraged and, in some cases, taught how to care for themselves, because, if you don’t care for your mind and your body, you’ll eventually wear out, and you won’t be a productive student or reach the goals with the same veracity as otherwise,”
The pledge is meant to last over two weeks of school and into Thanksgiving break, allowing students to do what they can to improve the area of their pledge in whatever way they can.
Both Mix and Bartell stress that the changes do not need to be drastic to be effective, but merely implemented with intention and celebrated when achieved, no matter how small.
“A lot of times we get into this rigid thinking of, ‘If I can’t drink eight glasses of water, I’m not going to drink any water,’ or ‘I can’t get seven hours I’ll just not worry about sleep at all,’ but really your body thanks you for any good that you do for it,” Bartell said.