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USU launches into 2021 with Team Wellness Challenge

Image of Four women, wearing masks, holding onto a simulated brain. Uniformed Services University neuroscience graduate students, aka “The Brainy Bunch”, are participating in the USU 2021 Student Wellness Challenge. (USU courtesy photo.)

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Every New Year brings resolutions to change or improve our health, fitness, attitudes, or habits. As the calendar hits January 1, we dive headlong into it, but by March 1, we may be burnt out, unable to keep up with the routine. 

Navy Ensign Ariana Sheridan, a fourth-year medical student at Uniformed Services University, is doing something about it. Sheridan, in collaboration with USU’s Student Wellness Advisory Board (SWAB), is launching the USU 2021 Student Wellness Challenge.

The six-week challenge, which runs from February 1-March 14, will help participants develop simple and sustainable habits that can be easily maintained after the challenge ends. In addition to supporting personal well-being, the wellness challenge will provide an opportunity for camaraderie and community building at USU. 

“I was inspired to create this challenge from a few different sources. I have competed in multiple fitness challenges over the years that have helped me achieve personal goals. Before the idea for the challenge came to life around this time last year, I spent a weekend catching up with some grad school friends--who were at other medical schools--about different opportunities our schools offered. One of them was in the middle of a team-based fitness challenge. I brought the idea back to Doctor [Kameha] Bell and the SWAB, but with the spin of doing it more as a wellness challenge. While I love the fitness aspect of these challenges, there are so many aspects of our wellbeing that we don't always focus on. Creating this challenge is an opportunity to inspire others to see the many domains of wellness, and give ideas for how we can incorporate these things into our daily lives,” said Sheridan.

Two women, wearing masks, on a tennis court and carrying heavy bundles
Navy Ensign Ariana Sheridan (front) and a friend get a jumpstart on workouts. Sheridan is spearheading the Uniformed Services University 2021 Student Wellness Challenge. (Photo courtesy of Ariana Sheridan.)

Despite its name, the wellness challenge is not limited to students. More than 156 students (representing the School of Medicine, Graduate School of Nursing and Graduate Education programs), faculty and staff are participating, including several associate and assistant deans from the medical school and graduate education programs. Even USU’s facility dog, Shetland, is participating with furry teammates, Sully (from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Maryland), Cleo (from the Air National Guard Readiness Center at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland), and Izzy (from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia) as “The Wellness Pack”. Participation can be as a team or as an individual.

Points will be awarded based on daily and weekly activities in the following wellness domains:  nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, burnout prevention, sleep and gratitude. Challenges will range from healthy eating, consistent physical activity, meditation or journaling, doing something that brings personal joy, getting a nap and good night’s sleep, to showing appreciation or paying it forward.

For example, hosting a healthy meal (virtual or in person), trying a new fruit or vegetable, increasing water consumption, trying a new recipe, eliminating meat from a day’s menu, eating fresh versus processed or prepackaged foods, or shutting down the television or phone while eating are all point-garnering activities under the nutrition domain. USU’s Preventive Medicine Interest Group is holding a heart-healthy culinary challenge to coincide with the wellness challenge, which gives additional opportunities to earn points and prizes.

In week four, the Student Wellness Advisory Board’s Burnout Prevention Task Force is hosting a conversation on burnout prevention with Army Col. Nathan Keller, the director of the University Counseling Center.

The winning teams or individuals will win awards; in addition fun awards will be given for:

  • Most Consistent Performer
  • Most Creative Team Name
  • Social Media Star #USUWellness2021
  • Week 1 Nutrition: Most Aesthetically Pleasing Plate
  • Week 2 Exercise: Most Creative Plank Location
  • Week 6 Gratitude: Gratitude Art Project

“We are very excited about the response to the Wellness Challenge! Our well-being program is student centered, so when Ariana came to us with this idea, we were eager to help make it happen,” said Bell, Well-being Coordinator in the USU School of Medicine Office of Student Affairs. “We hope that the challenge inspires continued self-care and burn-out prevention behaviors."

You can follow the Challenge progress on social media by following the tag #USUwellness2021.

Follow Shetland and the Wellness Pack’s progress on Instagram: @shetland.thewellnesspup, @sgt_cleo, @sullyhwbush, @izzy_avd

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