Have you ever noticed the seal of Andrews University? It’s the symbol with a crowned circle and the Latin words corpus, mens, spiritus (translated to body, mind, spirit) in the center. We can find the seal on legal documents, diplomas, and even on fresh windbreakers bought from the AU Bookstore. If you didn’t know already, this seal is used to officially communicate and identify AU. Thus, it can be seen not only a symbol, but a form of our identification. A core part of our identification as Andrews University is that we believe in nurturing the Body, Mind and Spirit together.
For the body nourishment, AU provides a diversity of outlets to keep the body moving, from physical education courses to sports intramurals. For spirit nourishment, we find ourselves frustrated on Sabbath morning on which church service to attend, because of the excess of options. We students can see the focus on caring for the physicality and spirituality of our campus. But what about the mental nourishment? Besides the knowledge that our professors and textbooks hammered into our brains, how is the mind nurtured on the AU campus?
On a talk show called The Balancing Act, Alayne Thorpe, PhD. and Dean of Distance Education at AU says in regard of our institution, “We believe all three of these things— mind, spirit and body—must work together for students to appreciate what to do with knowledge so they don’t just gather more facts but know what to do [with them].”
Through her presence on television, it is clear that AU confidently declares the holistic integration of the body, mind and spirit as a key part of our education. But despite what Thorpe said, it seems an injustice to believe that the function of the mind is merely to obtain and reiterate knowledge alone. The mind also enables us to control our behaviors and thinking.
Dominique Gummelt, the Director of University Health and Wellness at AU, says “The mind is very powerful and can truly impact our behavior.”
Our mind is not only a source of knowledge but a source on how we act, feel, and behave. Yet, how often are we taking care of our minds, and thus, our mental health?
From scheduling ourselves with back-to-back meetings, classes, and events, we students are driven into mental exhaustion. “How’s your semester been going?” I would ask fellow peers. Many respond “busy,” or “tiring.” Through these common conversations, there is a recurring pattern among students. We are mentally unintentional. We allow our mind to be so worked up from the responsibilities of student life, rather than mentally preparing for academic turmoil. How can we change that? We can’t stop going to class or finishing our assignments. We can’t press a pause button to stop the busyness. What can we do? We can be more intentional with our pauses, breaks or moments where we just breathe.
One of the Daily Wellness Themes is Mindful Mondays, which encourages people to be more mindful throughout the day. Especially on Mondays, when students get back into the cycle. Go to class. Eat lunch. Go to class. Study. Study. Eat again. Then maybe sleep, if the test is not the next day. Due to the lack of intentionality, this cycle can easily become draining. Thus, here are some practical tips to rid yourself of the mental exhaustion. Take a five-minute break. Find a quiet space. Sit calmly. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Intentionally become aware of your strengths, weaknesses, dreams, struggles, joy and issues. Reflect on how to improve your mental wellness. While it may at first seem like a waste of time, taking a break can lead to mental rejuvenation.
When asked to explain why being mindful is vital to one’s wellness, Dr. Gummelt says, “When you employ mindfulness throughout your day, no matter what you do, you will be more intentional about each and every situation and more in tune with your reactions to whatever the situation.” Thus, mindfulness switches the gears from being reactive to proactive when struggles come your way.
This mindset to be mindful does not come naturally. Similar to any war, the mind has battles in which people must train and prepare for. Look at the Disney story of the great Chinese warrior Fa Mulan, who takes the place of her father in the call for combat. At first she, among other trainees, does not seem fit to handle future battles for China. With the other soldiers, Mulan vigorously trains in order to be equipped to fight the enemies, the Huns. Like this Disney story, mindfulness takes training. As Gummelt says, “If you focus on training your mind—for example being mindful—then you are actually able to achieve a greater balance emotionally which in turn affects all other dimensions of wellbeing. If you neglect the training of your mind, difficult situations may cause serious struggles. These include, but are not limited to, dealing with interpersonal conflict, self-esteem, motivation, dealing with criticism, dealing with trauma, fear, anxiety and so on.”
Mindful Mondays rally students in becoming mindful now. When Fall Recess ends and you realize that you have midterms around the corner, you will be equipped to efficiently manage the stress, mentally engage in your classes and intentionally prevent mental exhaustion.
Jose Gonzalez II, who is the Licensed Professional Counselor and Prevention Program Coordinator at AU Counseling & Testing Center, says, “View mental health much in the same way that [people] view physical health. If someone breaks their arm, we wouldn’t tell the person, ‘Get over it.’” You would do something about it. So do something about your mind. Be mindful.