Sick days are no longer mandatory because of online learning and many students are working through their illness.

Before COVID-19, students took a break from school when they were sick. Now, because of online learning, many can’t justify taking that time off. 

Ben Vrobel, sophomore public relations major, said he ended up getting COVID-19 while on campus last semester.

Ben Vrobel

Ben Vrobel continued going to his online classes after he tested positive for COVID-19.

“I got lucky because my symptoms weren’t too bad, but I felt extremely fatigued,” Vrobel said. “Despite feeling under the weather, I didn’t take any sick days off school because I felt like I didn’t need to.”

Vrobel said that he would lay in bed with his laptop propped up on his pillow when he had to go to class because of how fatigued he felt.

Some students feel guilty about taking time off of school for any reason since it’s virtual.

“I also felt obligated to continue going to class because I’m paying for college myself,” Vrobel said. “In high school I used to take a lot of days off school just because I could, but now I feel like I always have to be at school because there’s money involved and I have to pay for it whether I go or not.”

Amy Montgomery, a junior art education major, ended up coming down with a stomach virus that turned into a cold in February. 

“I’m a little dramatic, so it felt like my life was ending, but my overall symptoms were pretty mild,” Montgomery said. “The nausea was the most intense because I couldn’t keep anything down.”

Montgomery decided that the best way to take care of herself and her health was to take a week off of school, but she felt bad even asking for that time off. 

Amy Montgomery

Amy Montgomery felt guilty for taking a week off of online school when she was sick.

“I felt guilty the entire time I wasn’t in class,” Montgomery said. “The time off definitely helped for my physical health, but I think because I was constantly worried about all the makeup assignments that were piling up I wasn’t able to properly rest mentally.”

Montgomery also said she wished she had more time for her makeup assignments since she had a lot of them to catch up on. 

“My professors were very kind and accommodating when I came to them,” Montgomery said. “But it felt like the second I came back they all just dumped all of my missed assignments in my lap which made me even more overwhelmed.”

Rebecca Baden, a private practice counselor in Hartville, Ohio, shared some tips on how students might be able to alleviate some of this overwhelming stress and anxiety.  

Rebecca Baden

Rebecca Baden encourages students to take breaks from their studies when necessary.

“I think students have definitely been hit hardest with the pandemic this past year,” Baden said. “I’ve had a lot of new high school and college students come to me this year saying they’re overwhelmed by everything going on in their lives right now, not just things related to school.”

Between school, work and worrying about if their loved ones are going to get COVID-19, students have definitely had a lot on their plates, which weighs heavily on their mental health. 

“I think students are also struggling to differentiate their school life versus their personal lives, and they feel like they’re living the same day over and over again,” Baden said. “One tip I always share with them is to make sure they have a designated spot for school and a designated spot for comfort or relaxation. This will help to keep those two things separate in your mind and will keep you from feeling like you’re always in school or work mode.”

Baden also stressed the importance of not beating oneself up if a day wasn’t as productive as they originally planned.

“It’s great if you’re able to be productive and get a lot of things accomplished during the day, but there are days when you just need to rest and relax and it’s important to remember that that’s okay,” Baden said. “What can help feel more productive on these types of days is actually scheduling in time to send out emails or work on homework, even if it’s just for an hour.”

Baden also suggests scheduling time to relax “and do something you love that will help you unwind and don’t feel guilty about it, and we need that now more than ever.”

Ashley Blood is a student life reporter. Contact her at ablood@kent.edu.

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