Julia Maher ‘23
We often hear about how it is important to take care of our bodies physically—how we should exercise, eat nutritious foods, and drink plenty of water—but how often are we encouraged to care about our mental health? Although it is equally, if not more, important than physical health, our society does not accept it as a priority. This discrepancy has resulted in undue levels of stress, which seem to actually cause certain physical health conditions, like heart disease (NCBI). If we can lower our stress and, in turn, improve both our physical and mental health, then why don’t we? Holy Cross seems to care about physical health, which is evident in its investment in athletic facilities and even in the flyers in Kimball Dining Hall that read “What is your biggest excuse for not going to the gym?” but its concern about mental health is not as palpable. The College should invest more time and resources into wellness programming and self-care events for students, like weekly yoga and meditation sessions (that are cheaper than the yoga classes currently offered) if Holy Cross would like to align more closely with its mission.
First, if the College prioritizes wellness programming for students, then a greater sense of community will arise. It is easy for our community to disregard how we genuinely feel and settle merely for superficial friendships; however, it is important that we listen to and understand each other deeply. A stronger community will result from dialogue among peers and from the formation of deep interpersonal connections; therefore, social support networks will be strengthened. If Holy Cross schedules simply one self-care event per week for students to gather and be authentic with each other, then the spirit of the community will heighten.
Second, if the College invests in self-care events, then levels of stress among the student body may improve. Not only will the wellness programming decrease levels of stress and their secondary health conditions, but the authentic support systems will, too. A study conducted by Harvard University over the span of 80 years revealed that one key factor to a life of physical and mental longevity and genuine happiness is authentic, unconditional relationships. When we cannot rely on healthy friendships in times of both desperation and elation, we suffer both mentally and physically. However, when we have supportive relationships to encourage us, we thrive holistically.
If Holy Cross emphasizes the importance of both mental and physical health, then the College will align with its Jesuit mission, which states, “Dialogue also requires us to remain open to that sense of the whole which calls us to transcend ourselves and challenges us to seek that which might constitute our common humanity.” If the College implements weekly self-care events and wellness programming, like yoga and meditation, then it will uphold the Jesuit principle of cura personalis, or “care for the whole person.” Moreover, its students can engage in respectful dialogue about their struggles and realize that they are not so alone; rather, they all belong to a greater human community, which transcends societal divisions.