“Every day is a chance for a fresh start.” “People love you. Don’t forget that.” “Respect yourself.” “You’re beautiful.”
A few words scribbled on pink post-it notes and signed with hearts first began appearing on the mirror in the second floor women’s restroom in Compton Hall in mid-September.
Over a month and a half later, the trend has continued and even spread to other locations around campus, such as the sky bridge.
There aren’t new sticky notes posted every day, but on at least a weekly basis, another one will appear in that restroom sharing a new message.
“Whenever you’re having a bad day and you walk in there, you think, ‘somebody’s actually thinking about me and they want me to have a good day,’” student Leslie Shaeffer said.
The typical college student has stress, as they worry about classes, money and friends, but as one of the general managers at the television station, Shaeffer perhaps has more than the average person. And these small tokens of support may just be helping.
According to a study discussed in “Sources of Stress among College Students” by Shannon Ross, Bradley Niebling and Teresa Heckert, 38 percent of stressors were intrapersonal, 28 percent environmental, 19 percent interpersonal and 15 percent academic, but most importantly, a large portion of each different type of stressor involved “daily hassles.”
All of the interpersonal stress students dealt with involved daily hassles; just over 80 percent of all stress sources were considered daily hassles.
And according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 40 million adults suffer from some sort of an anxiety disorder in the United States. Seventy-five percent of those people have their first episode of anxiety before age 22.
“Stress is the number one thing that brings people to the doctor, whether it’s headaches, migraines, back, neck [or] chronic colds,” Dr. Laura Miller, professor and chairperson of the health and physical education department said.
However, social support, whether it be through friends, family or in this case, sticky notes, can help students cope with stress, according to an article titled “The Moderating Role of Positive and Negative Affect on the Relationship Between Perceived Social Support and Stress in College Students.”
Shaeffer called the notes “uplifting,” and others who visit the women’s restroom agree.
“I think that everyone needs reminded that they are important,” student, Rachel Nicely said. “When I see one little positive word or sentence or phrase, it really changes the way I look at my day or I look at myself.”
More so, in mid-October, someone responded to the anonymous person leaving the notes in perhaps the most fitting way — with a sticky note.
“Whoever leaves these here every day, you have helped me so much,” it read. “Thank you.”
Students have expressed their gratitude through the app, Yik Yak, as well, but the person who initiated this remains unknown.
“Honestly, I feel like if we all knew who that person is,” Nicely said, “we would all want to give them a hug and thank them and buy them dinner and chocolate.”
Every semester for the past several years, Miller has taught a planning and evaluation class, where advocacy is one of the topics discussed and where a similar support project sprung up in the past. She asks that students find a way to incorporate a standard of national health education — where advocacy is one — in a particular content area of their choice.
Five or six years ago in the course, a group of students decided to advocate emotional health.
“This group came up with this idea to get a stack of post-it notes and to already have pre-written things on the post-it notes like: ‘You don’t have to look like this,’ ‘This woman is Photoshopped,’ ‘Size 2 doesn’t equal happiness’ and ‘You’re beautiful the way you are,’” Miller said.
They then proceeded to randomly place the notes into magazines on ads that might make women question their body image.
“Two days later somebody comes and buys their Glamour magazine,” Miller said. “They are reading it. They flip to an ad. They feel bad about themselves, but then, they see this handwritten sticky note saying ‘you don’t have to look like this to be happy.’”
Since then, every year Miller has shared this story with her class and every year her classes respond the same way. They seem to think it’s a great idea, but this isthe first time in five or six years that Miller has heard about sticky notes being used independently to spread positivity.
“What if one of my students are doing that?” she asked. “I would be so proud.”
Now, at times the bathroom mirror is adorned with multiple sticky notes all with different handwritings, and someone left a stack of sticky notes for others to leave messages, too.
“It’s almost gotten to the point where when I go into the women’s restroom, I’m almost looking forward to what note will be on the mirror next,” Nicely said.
Nicely actually started something similar in the WFSE Fighting Scots Radio Station around the same time the sticky notes began showing up in Compton’s restroom. However, she says she didn’t post any in the restroom.
As promotions director for the station, Nicely spends a significant portion of her time there and noticed that some people seemed to be feeling unappreciated.
“I started doing that because I noticed a lot of people were just feeling down and like a lot of what they were doing here wasn’t being noticed,” she said. “Then one day, I randomly wrote a nice few words on a post it note and just stuck it on the window and other people started doing the same.”
Soon, the window inside the radio station was covered in dozens of sticky notes. In fact, Nicely said that one day, one of the DJs at the station was leaving after his show, but turned around, saying that he forgot to post a note on the window.
“I feel like the sticky notes in the station have helped our staff. To almost make it a mission to spread positivity,” she said, “which I hope doesn’t just stop here or in the radio station.”
“[I hope] they’ll be able to spread that to all their friends and family, and that it will reach as many people as we can.”
Today, especially, Nicely says it might seem strange to approach someone and ask them if they are struggling and how you can help them, but the notes in the women’s restroom spread positivity in a unique way, reaching a significant number of people.
“I think the person who is doing that… really sees that people are hurting every day,” she said. “I feel like this is a simple way to remind everybody that you are going to make it through today, there’s hope and that there are people who care about you.”
Tracy Geibel is the Campus Life Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.