Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Who is wellness for?

Cyd Rios

In recent years, the prioritization of self-care, complementary health practices and general wellness has exploded. Americans spend an estimated $450 billion annually on wellness products and services. While it’s encouraging to see more people prioritize mental and physical health, this multibillion-dollar industry raises questions about who can afford to be well. In particular, college students with limited time and money might feel like wellness is unattainable.  

We must examine wellness from a simpler perspective. In reality, caring for one’s holistic health predates Westernized perceptions of wellness and has been cultivated by marginalized communities for centuries. 

Rather than conforming to an industry’s inaccessible narrative, we can return wellness to marginalized communities and students through sustainable forms of self-care. 

Jennifer Barnoud, registered dietitian and certified eating disorder specialist at the Longhorn Wellness Center, explained that meeting our basic physiological needs is the foundation for wellness. 

“We need food,” Barnoud said. “We need rest. We need joyful movement, playtime, and we need connection with others. That can look a lot of different ways, and it does not require you to sign up for anything.”

Students don’t need to spend excessive amounts of time or money to care for themselves effectively. Simply attending to your basic needs with intention and love is enough.

“Rest is really important,” Barnoud said. “If we run ourselves into the ground, we are not well. So, try to find some rhythm and balance between your academic work and the things that you need to do for your basic self-care, which I described as ‘eat, sleep, move and connect.’” 

These wellness markers can be achieved in many easy ways. For example, just walking around campus or sitting on the grass by Turtle Pond with a friend is an excellent way to remain active and connect with people and the environment without cost.  

Thierry Chu, a Plan II and English sophomore, said that exercise and reading were two priorities on her personal path to wellness.

“When I got really busy in high school, I would just fall back on the activities that I loved without being conscious that it was a wellness practice,” Chu said. “Once I started to get burned out, that’s when I started to discern what was going on and become more conscious of my wellness practices.”

Wellness can be as basic as giving yourself time to do what you enjoy or staying conscious of what makes you feel good. Although it is easy for students to become overwhelmed by classwork, delegating just a fraction of attention to mental and physical health pays off in the long term.  

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth half-assing,” Chu said. “So, if you want to run and move your body, five minutes is better than nothing. Same with reading: five minutes of reading is better than nothing.”

Truthfully, we don’t necessarily require the trendiest forms of therapy, exercise and food to be happy. While the wellness industry tricks us into thinking self-care is one-size-fits-all, wellness looks different for everyone. Some people don’t enjoy running or reading, but they might feel at peace when cooking, painting or meditating. 

Chu emphasized the importance of not comparing one’s own wellness to others’. 

“A lot of this is going to be letting go of these preconceived notions we’ve built in our head, which are a result of the society we live in,” Chu said. “I’m letting go of the idea that you need to reach a pinnacle of wellness practices because it’s really a journey.”

There are plenty of free or low-cost resources on campus to help students support their wellbeing. Barnoud leads workshops on topics such as intuitive eating, meal planning, yoga and mindfulness. The Longhorn Wellness Center offers “sleep kits” so students can prioritize rest, and the CMHC provides TimelyCare, a virtual platform where students can access therapy, health coaching and self-care content. 

Wellness is for everyone, including college students. Rest, move, play, connect and do what makes you feel your best because health and happiness is in your hands, not the people who profit from it.  

Jackson is a Plan II and journalism sophomore from Boerne, Texas.

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