Campus & Culture

Prioritizing Student Wellbeing Through New Health and Wellness Days

by Nicole Glueckert

Students participating in an outdoor yoga class

Students participating in an outdoor yoga class

Keys to the Article
  • On April 28, Saint Joseph’s University will host its second Health and Wellness Day of the semester — a day intended for students to focus on their own wellbeing and take a much-needed break.
  • Formerly known as Reading Days, these semester breaks were reimagined by a committee that decided to shift the focus from a class-free day to catch up on studies to a day of wellness.
  • Programming will be hosted for those interested in participating, but nothing will be required of the students on the special day.

Wednesday, April 28 marks the second official Health and Wellness Day at Saint Joseph’s University. The decision to launch Health and Wellness Days — formerly known as Reading Days — was made by a committee of faculty and staff who wanted to shift the focus from a class-free day to catch up on studies to a day focused on student wellness. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of changes, one big shift was a new emphasis on mental and physical health. Companies like Facebook, YouTube, Verizon and more have begun embracing this shift by implementing regular wellness events, allowing for flexible working hours and providing mental health resources through employee healthcare programs. 

However, it’s not just working professionals who need a break to focus on their wellbeing. “Saint Joseph’s students are very involved and high achieving. It is critical that they are given time to find moments to slow down and reflect,” says Ashley Lillie, assistant director in the Office of Student Outreach and Support. 

Lillie compares the need to find a health and wellness routine as a college student to preparing for a trip to a new destination. She says, “If you’re going on your very first white water rafting tour, you may talk to others about how to pack, what to wear, etc. On your second trip, you will have learned and will probably approach the trip much differently. Health and wellness is similar in the sense that you need to learn what works for you and try out different approaches to taking care of yourself. How are you going to prepare your own health and wellness in a way that will help you get through periods of stress or anxiety?”

This is where the shift from Reading Days to Health and Wellness Days at St. Joe’s came in. According to Greg Nichols Ph.D., director of Counseling and Psychological Services, “Reading Days send a message that students should be studying. We felt it was important to still have a designated few days in the semester to not focus on academics, but to have a day to downshift, relax, seek resources, rest and refresh.” 

So how can students participate in the next Health and Wellness Day? According to Angie Nagle, assistant athletics director for Campus Recreation, “For some students, the next Health and Wellness Day could mean attending fitness events or a program at the gym. Others just want to do nothing and there is value in that, too. The University is simply creating space for students to get what they need in that moment to recharge and focus on themselves.” 

Christina Foggie, director of special projects and special assistant to the athletics director echoes this sentiment and encourages every Hawk to use the day to the fullest. “Your recovery day is the most important day of the week. When you give yourself time to recharge and unwind, it allows you to really be at the top of your game.”

As the program continues to evolve, the University will look to its students to help determine what best suits their needs. 

“We are gathering data on what is working and what is not. We hope to combine the efforts of many student-focused groups across the University to build even better programming around what students continue to need,” says Foggie. 

Health and Wellness Day Events:

Saint Joseph's encourages all students to share their wellness activities on social media using #SJUWellnessDay.

  • 9 a.m.–7 p.m.: Student Senate Blood Drive at The Perch
     Register with the Red Cross here.
  • 10–11 a.m.: Yoga at the Barnes Arboretum
    Join Campus Recreation for an invigorating, all-levels flow class that will build steadiness and ease into each posture. Attendees will use continuous breath and movement to mindfully engage muscle groups to support the body, while also centering and energizing the mind and body. After class, participants will feel grounded, stable and calm. Register here.  
  • 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.: Allies of Recovery Training
    The Office of Student Outreach and Support will host its Allies of Recovery Training for students, faculty and staff to learn how to create inclusive and supportive environments for students in recovery. Register here.
  • 11 a.m.–1p.m.: Free Health and Wellness Activities on Villager Lawn
    No registration required.
  • 12–12:30 p.m.: Hawk’s Trail Walk at the Barnes Arboretum
    Join Campus Recreation for a lunch break walk and explore the Barnes Arboretum Trail. Registration required. Meet at the Barnes Arboretum parking lot. The Barnes Arboretum is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday, 11 a.m.–4 p.m., May 1–Oct. 31. For more information on the Barnes Arboretum visit their website.
  • 12:30 p.m.: Managing Stress, Managing Health
    Learn about the nature of stress and how it impacts the mind, body and spirit. In addition, individuals will learn how to identify their stressors, to recognize stressor manifestations and to utilize healthy coping mechanisms. Everyone will learn and practice a relaxation exercise, and all will leave with a personalized action plan. Join Zoom Meeting, Meeting ID: 952 0569 8788, Passcode: 185914.
  • 12:30–1:10 p.m.: How to Be at Your Best for Finals Week
    Students will learn psychological strategies and self-care tips to increase motivation and focus. Presented by Greg Nicholls, Ph.D., director of Counseling and Psychological Services. Students can register on the CAPS webpage. A Zoom link will be provided.
  • 4–5 p.m.: Hawk Hill Strength Competition at O’Pake Recreation Center Patio
    Participants will compete in three events testing their strength. The final five competitors will advance to the event final where the “Strongest Hawks on the Hill” will be named. More information here. Registration required. Enjoy healthy hummus samples during the event, sponsored by SJU Dining.
  • 6–7 p.m.: Stability Plus Yoga at the Barnes Arboretum
    Join Campus Recreation for an all-levels energetic stability class that moves from one pose to the next, connecting breath to movement. This class will build strength, flexibility, focus and grounding to connect participants’ minds and bodies. Registration required.