Haskins: Yale’s unhealthy student body

Earlier this month I made my first trip to DUH. It isn’t that I’ve never been sick before; no, I’ve had my share of sniffles, coughs and upset stomachs. But this time was different.

This time I had three exams and two papers in a week, and really, I did not have time to nurse my body back to health using the “sleep and fluids” route. So I rushed myself to DUH for antibiotics to bring hearing back into my infected ears and productivity back into my self-pitying life.

Yalies start writing papers at 11 p.m. the night before a due date, we go out each weekend with the goal of remembering very little of what went on in Toad’s, and we spend hours on the elliptical in order to burn off an appropriate number of calories in relation to the daily allotment that we count like it is our job.

Yet our biggest anxiety is not the onset of the “freshman 15,” but simply the thought of being sick. Nothing scares a Yalie like the common cold. We simply do not have time to be slowed down.

What was it for which I did not have time anyway? Perhaps I did not have time to sleep as much as I did — a whopping nine hours per night — or perhaps I did not have time to excuse myself from my daily cardio regime. Surely I did not have time to avoid late weekend nights, and surely I did not have time to start my papers a day in advance. Certainly, my activities could never manage without me; so I most definitely did not have time to send a handful of e-mails excusing myself from a handful of meetings.

And yet, somehow, I found time to do these things — in the name of my health, of course.

Strangely enough, I emerged a week later more intact than I had been since shopping period. I was healthier — physically and mentally — all thanks to a minor sinus scare. What had been so terrifying about having to take care of myself for once? Was it the idea of not being so — gasp! — stressed out? What on earth would I do with myself if suddenly attacked by a sense of calm?

No one questioned my abnormal sleeping behavior when I told them I was fighting a cold, but I have a feeling I would not have found nearly as much sympathy if in my e-mails I stated that I was promoting my own mental health by getting a good night’s rest. “Stressed out” is not a good enough excuse here, despite the fact that our brains are as much a part of our body as the parts we treat with antibiotics.

Maybe Yalies should stop hanging tight deadlines and sleep deprivation around our necks as medals of honor and make taking care of our bodies and minds habit rather than an inconvenience. Maybe we should stop competing with one another over the prize of “farthest stretched” and start holding ourselves accountable to a healthy standard of living.

And maybe, just maybe, we should all take a radical step in accepting that we are human and do in fact have time to step off the Yale elliptical — for even just a moment — and nurse our bodies back to health when we need to.

A.J. Haskins is a sophomore in Morse College.

Comments

  • Class of 08

    This is a good article about an issue that almost never gets talked about. Sure, there's the annual stress-down day - where you can wait in line for two hours to get a massage - but the campus culture of overextension and glorifying stress and lack of sleep is pervasive. The sentiment that it's okay - let alone imperative! - to live a healthy lifestyle while on campus is almost taboo.

    As an alum, I've only since graduating gotten into a routine of working out and taking better care of myself. I'm still working on the sleep thing, but I can attest that the healthier lifestyle really makes a big difference. I only wish I would have started earlier. I would have enjoyed college more, been less stressed, and probably added years to my life. I hope today's undergrads will take this message to heart.