This has been an unprecedented semester and, for the majority of us, online school is definitely not an ideal option. I personally have felt like this semester has been more emotionally and mentally draining than any previous semester I have had. There have been weeks this semester where I have felt like I’ve been sitting and staring at a screen the whole day and still have more assignments left to do. In the past it at least felt like lectures were separate from assignments, but now everything has jumbled together, creating an impression of a much larger workload. During this time, I have really found that the outdoors serve as the only outlet of release and relaxation. I have always used the outdoors as an outlet for physical and mental health, but this semester, with online school, has transformed outdoor experiences from a source of enjoyment to a necessity.
Just last week itself, I found myself in another online school slump. I had spent days in a row working on assignments, glued to my screen. During a couple of those days I hadn’t even left my house a single time. I felt irritable and lethargic, like all my motivation was leaching out of me. Then, last Thursday, I reached my breaking point and chose to ignore all my upcoming assignments in favor of climbing outside. Thursday afternoon I took my first breath of air in the Big Cottonwood canyon and felt this tightening in my chest that had been plaguing me melt away. I glanced up at Outside Corner, the multi-pitch I was planning on climbing, and felt a sense of contentment wash over me. I felt the familiar sense of excitement whir in my stomach as I racked up my harness. And then I just started the climb. Instantly I felt a burst of energy course through me as my body came alive at just the feel of rock under my skin. Outside corner is a moderate trad climb with pretty easy movement, so I felt myself flow up the rock. Every movement led me to a new jug or a beautiful foothold. I found myself going stretches of twenty feet without placing gear, solely because I was lost in the enjoyment of the climb. I was mesmerized by the feeling of my body and mind working so synchronously as opposed to the stress of my mind during online school. And, as I belayed my partner up in the sunset glow of the canyon, I remembered that this is what my mind and body need to feel truly alive.
This semester has been very taxing on myself and others, and it’s important to remind yourself that its necessary to give yourself a break from the suffocating bubble of online school for a while. While school is definitely not as interesting as it has been in the past, online school can provide flexibility for you to do other fulfilling activities. Not having a fall break was a large morale blow so, instead, I treated myself to two different much needed fall breaks. I would recommend, for your mental health, prioritizing the experiences that make you feel alive and happy, even if there are some potentially negative academic side effects. In the long run, if you are doing things that make you happy and content, the positive effects will be felt in all aspects of your life including school. This is just a reminder to remember to prioritize your mental health during this stressful time.