As COVID-19 has brought uncertainty and stress into everyone’s daily lives, the value placed on health and wellness has never been more pressing, William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe said during a virtual community conversation broadcast from the President’s House on April 1.
“We’re proud of our resilience over the past month at William & Mary, and it’s so clear right now that every dimension of wellness for everyone in our community is going to be the key to resilience,” Rowe said.
To bring expertise to the topic of health and wellness, Rowe welcomed special guests Kelly Crace, associate vice president for health & wellness at W&M, to the conversation, as well as students Madison Miller ’20, a wellness ambassador, and Colin Cross ’14, a graduate assistant in fitness and wellness.
The session was the second in a weekly series of conversations that will run through mid-May. The discussions will be an opportunity for the community to connect on W&M’s response and adaptation surrounding COVID-19 and will feature different guests for each conversation.
The next community conversation is scheduled for April 8 at noon. Future sessions will take place every Wednesday at noon through May 13.
Rowe opened the latest conversation by reiterating the university’s goals: to safeguard the health of students, faculty and staff; to ensure students complete their classes; to maintain the university’s research and other operations; to do everything possible to support national and global efforts to slow the spread of the disease.
An overarching theme of self-care permeated the discussion, as the guests spoke of healthy ways to deal with the stress and uncertainty that have risen so quickly during this ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
“It’s really important for us to realize that we are a species that can hold a complex layer of experiences,” Crace said. “We can hold grief and hold fear and also hold purpose and healthy self-care. They don’t have to be either-or. When we look at that, it’s important for us to be intentional about it.”
Crace said it’s OK to be in protective mode while in the midst of crisis intervention, but having a sense of community is also important as people strive for wellness.
Miller echoed that sentiment, adding that shared experiences with her fellow classmates have helped her cope with all that is happening. By connecting with friends or professors over videoconferencing tool Zoom or social media channels, they can share their similar feelings.
“We’ve all stepped up or expressed our needs more,” Miller said. “I’ll get emails from my professors saying, ‘I hope everyone went outside today. It’s really nice out.’ Or just other little things that end up mattering a whole lot. I would say the connections are still the biggest thing, and it’s a beautiful thing to see those being maintained in such a consistent and intentional way.”
Crace said social support via virtual platforms is critical during this time of social distancing.
“By connecting with others, it’s providing us a sense of perspective and empathy and compassion with the varying impact all this is having on us, especially the impact of moving from crisis to ongoing healthy self-management,” Crace said. “We’re now in a new transition that’s going to have varying impact on us. We’re all in this, but we’re all in it differently. By connecting with each other, we are reminded and can share in the both meaningful and inspiring experiences of this and also can share in our varying levels of the pain and varying levels of struggle.”
Cross cited William & Mary’s new Virtual Health & Wellness website as an effective resource for people looking for healthy activities to do during these stressful times.
“This is the best time, more than ever, to try something new,” Cross said. “You can do it from the comfort of your own home. And if it’s not something that resonates with you, try something else. Sometimes something new might really open up and help you settle in an unsettled time.”
Working from home presents a variety of new stressors, and those have a way of sapping productivity, Cross said. He emphasized the importance of finding a healthy routine with activities that help combat the stress.
“It’s OK to not be as productive as you were before,” Cross said. “It’s OK to sleep in a little bit later if that’s what you need right now. It’s a different time, and there are so many stressors that we’re all wearing that we may not even realize. Anything we can do to help ourselves feel any amount better I think is extremely important. But I think the biggest piece of that is being more accepting and letting go and not holding additional weight that we don’t need.”
Before signing off, Rowe reminded the campus community to continue to send questions to leadership as the university adapts throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
“This is an incredible community to be standing together with even at this moment of uncertainty and stress, and so my new normal is to always just say, ‘Stay well,’” Rowe said.