Hi everyone – my name is Eric Smith and I am the Director of Health Promotion and Wellness Services. In this role, I get the opportunity to work with amazing students as we try to navigate some challenging health and wellness related issues. I have always appreciated the complicated nature of wellness work, and this year is certainly no different.
A few years back at convocation, I said the following while addressing the incoming class:
“While health and wellness, to some degree, is about receiving the flu shot and sleeping well, it is also so much more. While health and wellness is about nutrition and exercise, we can all probably agree it is so much more. The absence of disease is not exactly health, it just indicates you do not have strep or mono or something even more horrific. Health is a lot more than any of this one thing. To me health is capacity. Your ability to achieve everything you need during a given day or want to over the course of your freshman year is predicted solely on your health capacity. Some days it may be a 10, some days it may be a 7 or a 5 and that’s okay, because chances are your capacity will not be defined by one day, but your ability to bounce back and maintain a healthy optimism for what tomorrow may bring. “
This year, COVID-19 has impacted not only our individual health, but our university’s collective health, and we need your commitment to help maintain and sustain our community’s health capacity. To help build this capacity, I need you to commit to doing these four things every day:
- Wear a mask: Everyone knows we need you to wear a mask inside buildings on campus, but that’s also extended to outside if you cannot keep six feet of distance between folks. It’s for your good, my good, and everyone’s public good. Please wear a face-covering.
- Keep your distance: We are social creatures! We love Auburn, we care for each other and believe it or not we genuinely enjoy each other’s company. But we also have to respect the boundaries of everyone and keep a little more distance in the lines at Starbucks, or other eateries, sit a little further apart in classrooms, and maybe not walk so close to each other on the concourse. Keeping your individual distance is important, respecting the distance you are giving each other is also important – and this mutual understanding needs to be extended off campus, too.
- Complete the health screener everyday: This one is pretty cut and dry, but it’s also pretty simple. Every day before you come to campus or leave your residence hall, log on to AU Access and complete the Guide Safe survey. If your passport is not green, stay home, call the medical clinic for their guidance, and let your professors know you will not make it to class today.
- Wash your hands: Here again, nothing too crazy, but we need you to do it. Twenty seconds, recite the Creed, sing a song, whatever you need to do to stay engaged and scrub away! If hand washing isn’t an option, use hand sanitizer and carry a small bottle with you in your bag.
That’s it, that’s the big 4, all for AU. All for the health capacity of our community. Each of you have a role to play and can contribute to the success of this semester by simply doing these four things every day.
Some of you may have come in contact with our office through the Green Dot program. Green Dot is our bystander program specifically for sexual violence prevention. This year I need each of you to be a proactive bystander for Covid-19 too. Being an active bystander means recognizing when a situation is potentially harmful and being willing to intervene for the collective well-being of the Auburn community. To promote A Healthier U, this might include:
- Noticing someone not wearing a mask on campus
- Someone not keeping their physical distance in class
- Someone overcrowding a tiger transit
- A roommate not completing their daily health checker before going to class
When you see these situations know that you have tools at your disposal to help address them. These are the the 3-D’s of bystander response and they are listed below:
- Direct: address behavior and model appropriate behavior
- Delegate: find someone who is better positioned or equipped to step in and ask them to intervene
- Defend: support the bystander who has chosen to intervene, especially when doing so at a personal risk
As we talk about promoting health and being an active bystander its always important to remember that many of Auburn’s students, faculty, and staff are at higher risk for more severe COVID-19 symptoms, and sometimes, we may not always know when others fall into a high-risk category. Be mindful to think about what your comfort level is. Consider the following: who you live with, traveling (recent and upcoming), attending classes, state and regional mandates, who you plan to spend time with during the next 14 days. Respect others’ boundaries and unwillingness to participate in something, especially when it is different form your comfort level. Assessing your own level of risk and defining your personal boundaries can help us all develop us create a larger capacity for health both on campus and off.
I will end this post with the same lines I used to end convocation in the speech mentioned above.
“The creed mentions a spirit that is not afraid. To me what this really refers to is a spirit that is not afraid to stay positive and seek out the good in this world instead of always focusing on the unnecessary and negative. There will be times in your pursuit of personal academic success when you will be stressed out and disgruntled and, in those moments, stay positive, be engaged and remember to breathe a little bit and you’ll make it. Because, I believe a spirit that is not afraid is one that is resilient and stays positive. I believe that your personal and academic success begins and ends with you and is built upon a solid foundation of healthy choices.”
War Eagle y’all!
Post contributed by Eric Smith, Director Health Promotion and Wellness Services