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Dean's Blog: Be well

Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm
Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

As the semester begins, we test our resolve to deliver on our mission of providing high-quality science education, impactful research, and meaningfully engaging our community. I suggested we use the winter break to rest up and take care of ourselves, restoring our energy for this semester. For honestly, we will need mental strength and enthusiasm to tackle what lies before us.

The Pfizer website defines wellness as: “the act of practicing healthy habits on a daily basis to attain better physical and mental health outcomes, so that instead of just surviving, you're thriving. To understand the significance of wellness, it's important to understand how it's linked to health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is defined as being “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

So what can we do to stay well? Here are some suggestions.

At least, we’re not going into an unknown like we were midway through last spring.

We know that COVID-19 can be deadly (my sincere condolences to you who have had to face tragic losses of friends and family over the past year); we know an online format of virtual learning can occur for a majority of our classes (and many of you also had to also juggle guiding your children through virtual learning while teleworking, not an easy feat); we know that Mason’s COVID-19 safety protocols helped keep our university learning environment one of the safest in the nation (thank you to all who did their part to make that happen).

Despite realizing we’ve ‘survived’ thus far on the coronacoaster of life, sometimes it’s even harder to get back on the ride again to undertake something that we know will be challenging, scary, exhausting and difficult. Yet, that is exactly what we are asking you all to do.

Borrowing the boy/girl scout motto “Be Prepared” we offer the following resources, insights, and tools to help you in this endeavor.

Where to find daily wellness resources? In addition to free Burnalong sessions to promote physical activity and wellbeing, this semester, Mason’s Center for Well Being is also offering a MindfulMason wellness lunch break each weekday to connect with others. 

Need to work out the kinks of your learning plan? Here are some tips and feedback from an Inside Higher Ed survey and, faculty, check your email for insights directly from College of Science faculty and students on how to best educate virtually.

Need a new childcare solution?  Mason is offering learning pods for employees’ children.

Miss connecting with your colleagues? We are adding a new ScienceConnect this spring semester. Save the date -- February 25 from 1 to 3 p.m. to ‘see each other,’ get caught up on college research efforts and back by popular demand, unplug for trivia.

Give yourself a break. At the recent faculty meeting, it was suggested that the college not schedule meetings on what would have been spring break. Although we can’t mandate that for the whole campus, we are recommending that all of us in the college not schedule meetings during that time  (March 8 to 12) to lighten the administrative load. Some groups are trying a no-meeting Friday to dedicate time for catching up on the week, injecting wellness activities or even just catching one’s breath.

Take time to explore your options. Think back to the last time you were on an airplane during the safety briefing when the flight attendant described what to do if cabin pressure should change. Put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others. Not as a selfish act, but rather to sustain the energy needed to effectively help others more fully.

It's important to keep yourself well, emotionally and physically. Plug in to a support group that allows you to share your feelings freely. Ask for help if you need to, not as a sign of weakness but rather as a sign of strength and intelligence.

We know there will be challenges and we must be creative, resilient and patient with ourselves and others to get through the following weeks and months. We must support each other, speak up when challenges arise. Take care of yourself first. And remember, we are sharing our scientific knowledge to change lives.

Buckle up. Let’s ride this semester as well as the last one.

Time to thrive.


Visit the Dean's Blog for more insights from Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm.