Surges in the Omicron variant encourage a focus on physical and mental health


Leah Allen '22

As experts urge Americans to prioritize mental and physical health during the coronavirus pandemic, Sacred Heart Greenwich works to increase wellness within the student body.

As the new year commences, beginning with a surge in Omicron variant cases and the promise of another prolonged period of uncertainty, experts urge Americans to prioritize their mental and physical well-being.  While critics argue that the modern and “trendy” concepts of wellness and self-care have lost sincerity and become commercialized, studies show that focusing on personal health during the pandemic has noted positive effects, according to The New York Times.  This year, Sacred Heart Greenwich has pioneered efforts to support students and encourage wellness. 

Experts report that the coronavirus pandemic has led to increased rates of anxiety and depression.  Courtesy of

The coronavirus pandemic continues to have a severe impact on the social, physical, and psychological development of children and adolescents, according to  More than 1.6 billion children worldwide have suffered some loss of education since March 2020.  Distance learning has especially increased feelings of social isolation among students and contributed to “learning loss.”  These educational setbacks are even more prevalent amongst low-income students and students with disabilities, according to

Mrs. Catherine Butler, Upper School Learning Specialist, discussed the psychological and social effects of distance learning on adolescents and offered advice on how to remain focused and connected while learning virtually.

“Long term effects, such as difficulties with oral communication and peer relationships, are a concern,” Mrs. Butler said.  “Children of all ages need to learn how to communicate effectively and navigate social situations.  Most of the time they learn these skills through observation and practice.  Sadly, the pandemic has severely limited these opportunities for peer interactions and social skills will likely decline.  To ward off this outcome, parents should provide as many opportunities as possible for their children to safely interact and communicate with other children and adults in order to practice the fine art of conversation and learn how to get along with others.”

As of March 2021, approximately 50 percent of American students returned to in-person school full time, according to The Washington Post.  These numbers have since increased due to the widespread distribution of the coronavirus vaccine.  Since September 2020, Sacred Heart has remained open for students in every division to attend in-person classes.  The administration maintains its commitment to the 2020-2021 academic year theme of “Every Girl, Every Day.”  The slogan encapsulates the school’s desire to foster a learning environment in which all students are present, engaged, and fulfilled in their educational pursuits. 

The Sacred Heart Upper School, under the leadership of the Executive Board Student Council (STUCO), spent this year fostering conversations about mental health and personal wellness.  In encouraging these conversations, the STUCO hopes to eradicate mental health stigma and encourage each student to feel a sense of belonging, in accordance with the 2021 to 2022 Upper School theme of Ohana.

Nationally, conversations surrounding adolescent mental health have grown more prevalent as experts report that pandemic lockdowns, large-scale public panic, and disruptions to traditional routines and recreational activities have led to an increase in reported cases of anxiety and depression amongst youth, according to unicef.orgMrs. Butler spoke on the mental and social consequences of the pandemic.

“During this medical crisis, young people have felt socially isolated and uncertain about the future,” Mrs. Butler said.  “It is to be expected that anxiety and unhappiness will follow.  Moreover, those who already have issues with worry and depression will find it even more difficult to remain calm and keep their spirits up.  If children and teenagers begin to feel overwhelmed by the impact of COVID-19, they should seek out adults who can help.”

The Sacred Heart Athletic Department encourages students to make use of the Mara Strength and Conditioning Center.  Leah Allen ’22

Studies show that global lockdowns and pandemic restrictions have also led to overall declines in physical health.  Americans report a lack of motivation to exercise and distrust towards public gyms since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, according to  Exercise can improve both physical and mental health, according to It increases endorphins that improve sleep and mood regulation and increase blood flow to the brain, which helps with rest and recovery.  Experts urge Americans to consider physical movement as a healthy way to cope with stressors related to the coronavirus pandemic.

This year, Sacred Heart re-opened the Mara Strength and Conditioning Center for student use and is offering fitness training to the student body.  Mrs. Christina Cauliffe, Director of Athletic Training, believes that granting students access to the center will help them develop positive habits and empower them to make their physical health a priority.

By making the Strength and Conditioning Center open and accessible to students, it allows them to learn how to create healthy habits and keep them in the long run,” Mrs. Cauliffe said.  “It gives students the freedom to make their own decisions and improve their time management skills.  Opening the Strength and Conditioning center shows young women that gym spaces and weights don’t have to be intimidating to scary.  By normalizing exercise in any form, we help the overall student body boost their confidence, improve their physical and mental health, and make it accessible to everyone.”

Mrs. Butler commended Sacred Heart’s efforts to prioritize student wellness and commented on the school’s commitment to continuing in-person instruction.  

We are so fortunate to be able to come together as a learning community on a regular basis,” Mrs. Butler said.  “It has not been easy to accomplish this.  A lot of planning and resources have been put in place to make this possible because we believe that the benefits of in-person learning are indisputable.  Although distance learning venues, such as Zoom, are an important means of maintaining continuity of instruction in challenging times, these remote learning platforms have their limitations.  In-person learning provides opportunities for human interactions that are essential to the social, emotional and cognitive development of children.” 

Featured Image by Leah Allen ’22