The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday May 24th

'Hard to escape': Students question how beneficial wellness days are

DTH Photo Illustration. With UNC's first wellness days coming up on Feb. 15 and 16, students have expressed that this break will not be as relaxing as intended. Many will spend the days focused on studying for upcoming exams rather than self-care as intended by the university.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. Students have expressed that the "wellness days" granted by the University are not as relaxing as intended. Many spent the days focused on studying and doing homework rather than self-care.

UNC students had their second set of wellness days on March 11 and 12. But as those two days come to a close, some students are questioning just how beneficial the breaks are. 

Wellness days, acting as a replacement for the traditional Spring Break due to COVID-19, are intended as breaks from the semester — allowing students time off from their regular course load. 

In a message on UNC’s Carolina Together website, University Registrar Lauren DiGrazia said faculty would be “instructed to avoid scheduling exams, quizzes and other major assignments on days following these breaks.” 

But some students have still found it challenging to pause their studies completely. 

First-year student Rachel Reynolds said last month’s wellness days didn’t feel like a break at all. 

“It was really quick, and I still ended up having to do some work,” Reynolds said. “I had important things that were due soon after the wellness days, so I couldn’t just sit back and relax.”

Senior Erin Walsh said although she appreciates the time off from classes following last semester’s lack of scheduled breaks, keeping her mind off school has been challenging.   

“Even on these days off, it’s very hard to escape the University atmosphere and everything I need to do for classes,” Walsh said. “I just can’t really take that break and let that stress fully go away.” 

UNC Media Relations said students who have concerns about assignments scheduled around wellness days should reach out to their professors or department chairpersons. 

Junior Brockinton Gibson said that while the wellness days have been useful for catching up on work, he still finds them beneficial. 

“I enjoy having personal time and the freedom to take what I’ll be doing for the day,” Gibson said. “There’s a lot on everybody’s minds right now, but because of the rest days this week, I get to kind of get away from it all.” 

Gibson said he prefers this semester’s wellness days over the traditional spring break, and he believes they have helped improve his academic performance. 

“For the traditional spring break, I think the allure of it is there’s a long period without having to go to class or worry about assignments,” he said. “But at the same time, it takes you away from your courses and you don’t stay sharp.”

Walsh said she believes the traditional spring break is more helpful than wellness days, as it lets students fully relax and separate themselves from school.  

“Other than freeing up my day, it doesn’t really free up my mind,” she said. 

Dean Blackburn, director of student wellness and associate dean of students, said the benefits observed from the wellness days, compared to the traditional spring break, have been relatively equal. 

“As long as students are getting breaks along the way, they serve a similar purpose,” Blackburn said. “Sometimes people can take a whole week, and sometimes people can take long weekends. It may be preferred from student to student, but the benefits are the same in either respect.” 

Blackburn said he encourages students to give themselves permission to take full advantage of the time off and do something they genuinely enjoy. 

Though Reynolds said she didn’t feel the wellness days provided enough time to destress fully, she still believes they are essential in giving students some time to relax and regroup. 

And Gibson said he is grateful that the University has offered wellness days this semester — and hopes they consider keeping them. 

“I think there’s currently a tremendous amount of pressure for people to perform at normal academic levels,” Gibson said. “Giving people even a moment to catch their breath for a day or two, like we’re getting right now – I think that’s really important.” 

According to UNC Media Relations, the academic calendar for fall 2021 has a traditional fall break set in October.

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