What's Next? Healing After a Difficult Semester

AU had a difficult semester. With acts of blatant racism that threatened the safety of students of color, particularly women of color on campus, tensions following the election, anxieties about the future, loss and other challenges, many students may be leaving for break with feelings of hopelessness, grief and pain. Dr. Giordan of the Counseling Center wrote in an email to Her Campus American (HCAU) stating that, “this semester has presented students with many challenges, and we have seen these impacting the mental health of many of our students. We have seen an increase in the number of students utilizing our Urgent Care Drop-In Hours.”

While the trauma of this past semester cannot be overlooked and there are many things to take away from it, winter break can serve as a time for healing and self-care, as well as preparation for activism in the spring. As Dr. Giordano said, “students have displayed a great deal of resiliency, for example, by using their problem-solving skills to take steps to explore their options, support other students, and voice their needs/opinions.” She encourages students to consider the following suggestions to promote healing over break:

  • Acknowledge your feelings
  • Make sure to take time for self-care (exercise, meditation, reading)
  • Be aware of how the media/social media can impact emotions. It is important to stay informed, but also to take breaks. It can be useful to limit the amount of time spent watching/reading the news, browsing social media, or reading comment sections.  
  • Social support is also very important. Reaching out and connecting with friends/loved ones can be extremely helpful. At this time, it is also important to reach out to allies and possibly support services.
  • Recognize when you need alone time or feel too spent to support others. It is important to give yourself permission to have alone time.
  • For some students, it helps to channel feelings by getting involved in various community groups (campus and nationally) that promote dialogues, volunteering, or other positive activities where students may be able to channel their emotions.

Speaking to Dr. Giordan’s encouragement to channel emotions into groups on and off-campus, there are fortunately a large amount of older and emerging clubs on campus that have been promoting dialogue and community, which can serve as a valuable source of activism and healing for AU students.

One of these clubs is AU’s NAACP chapter, which is looking ahead to an exciting semester. This past semester, they were able to hold several important events, writing in an email to HCAU, that last semester’s notable moments included their “first general body meeting, the town hall and our first Annual Thanksgiving Dinner.” These events allowed them to write a list of demands in response to the banana incident on campus, raise money for Haiti relief efforts, foster community and activism and more. Next semester, they are looking ahead to new leadership opportunities, their first-ever Culture fest which “will serve as a needed space to celebrate black culture and cultivate camaraderie,” a scholarship for undergraduate black students, and hosting Black Graduation again.

“With the outcomes of this recent election, NAACP is set out to address and answer the question, ‘what comes now?’  As we work with the rest of the dedicated organizations on campus, we intend to make lasting change far beyond AU,” the organization wrote in an email.

For women on campus, AU’s chapter of the American Association for University Women recently launched and is ready to push forward. President DeLancey Lane wrote to HCAU in an email that this semester sexual harassment in the residence halls that has “sparked conversations about what we can ask the university for to alleviate these issues, and also how we as a collective group of women can support each other. We’re planning to continue these conversations to allow women a space where it’s okay to be angry, and also a community to rally with them in fighting these injustices on our campus.”

Next semester, Lane wrote to look out for events such as, “a conference to train women to run for office, a focus on the intersections between faith and feminism, lobbying workshops, and breast cancer awareness events,” as well as a push for AU to adopt certain policies, such as making menstrual hygiene products free and available on campus.

As students heal over break and return to campus, it’s important that they seek support from friends, utilize the activism of clubs, and seek out resources on campus, such as the Counseling Center, Wellness Center, the Academic Support and Access Center and more. Dr. Giordan also reminds students to make sure they meet their basic needs, such as eating healthy, sleeping, and drinking plenty of water. Furthermore, as important as it is to stay active and have dialogue, it’s also okay to disengage and take the time away from AU over break to re-evaluate, relax, and heal.

Have a restful break, AU.

Photo Credit: Cover