A long awaited “welcome back,” everyone. I hope this extended break has supplied additional time to recenter, relax and rethink as these unprecedented times continue.
As many of us simultaneously navigate through a pandemic and social injustices — in addition to the workload of a working university student — now, more than ever, it is essential to focus on mental health awareness and ensure both our bodies and minds are “in good condition.”
Blugolds and students across the nation are now in their first weeks of online and in-person instruction, which presents a variety of changes to the learning dynamic we were once familiar with.
The combination of learning and sustaining social distancing requirements presents a new challenge for students. We now must navigate how to study with friends safely or how to avoid feeling cramped inside an apartment for hours on end.
To combat this issue and keep in mind the importance of mental health, I turn to a fairly reliable companion (depending on the weather): the outdoors.
During the past summer, it was acceptable to spend time outside, so long as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines were followed.
According to the CDC, when engaging in outdoor activities — by yourself and with others — it is important to follow updates from your local health department and city council. An emphasis on your community’s best interests can ensure safety when in the outdoors.
While going outside can help cope with the post-quarantine eagerness, other health benefits include boosts in your immune system, free aromatherapy and relief to anxiety brought on by Seasonal Affective Disorder.
As students leave from class and venture into the outdoors to get started on next week’s homework, here are some scenic locations to visit, with space to socially distance:
Central Campus Mall (105 Garfield Ave.): A classic spot to catch up on assignments between classes. I recommend setting up a spot earlier in the morning or later afternoon, where the rush of students won’t be as high.
Garfield Avenue (105 Garfield Ave.): Now reconstructed as a walkway for students and community members, Garfield Ave. has become the newest spot to socialize and get homework done. Available seating overlooks the Chippewa River and the view is especially beautiful during sunset.
Owen Park (501 1st Ave.): As one of the best spots in Eau Claire to hammock — with a variety of trees to share — Owen Park is the perfect spot to read textbooks. Grab a hammock and hang out in the wide open space.
Phoenix Park (800 Wisconsin St.): With plenty of rocks to sit on or grassy areas to set up a blanket, this park has some of the best views in downtown Eau Claire to study. You can even set up a socially distanced group study date.
Dine and sit options:
The Acoustic Café (505 S Barstow St.): This cafe has options for outdoor seating and grassy areas across the street to lay down a blanket. Wi-Fi is available upon request. The best studying duo: Pita pocket with hummus and an iced latte.
Eau Claire Downtown Coffee (205 S Barstow St.): Another great coffee spot in Eau Claire, with select outdoor seating upon reservation at counter. Wi-Fi is available upon request. My favorite menu item: any flat white.
While the outdoors are commonly reserved for bike rides and hikes with friends, spending time with Mother Nature is the perfect prescription to manage first semester worries and social distancing, all in one.
Still, continue to wear a face mask and follow ordinances both Wisconsin and Eau Claire have set in place.
Best of luck to my fellow Blugolds and the community of Eau Claire. This column will be here for wellness guidance and support.
Nelson can be reached at [email protected].