Bringing support where students need it most
Unwind Your Mind offers plenty of ways for students to ease stress, eat healthy and beat the end-of-semester blues.
By SCOTT LINGLEY
(Edmonton) The pressures that routinely affect university students increase exponentially around the beginning of December when the onset of winter, exams and end-of-semester assignments conspire to turn up the stress. And while students are always encouraged to seek out the help and support available on campus, University Wellness Services is taking things a step further by bringing the services to the students.
Unwind Your Mind, an initiative driven by the U of A’s Healthy Campus Unit with the help of more than 30 partners and a team of volunteers, will bring academic help, counselling, healthy snacks and good old-fashioned TLC to the places students need it most. Campus Saint-Jean and Augustana are also taking part in the initiative, which runs Dec. 1–12.
Healthy Campus Unit team lead Melissa Visconti says Unwind Your Mind started four years ago with a single booth in John W. Scott Library that offered students a little brain relief without having to stray too far from their books.
“We know exams are tough on students and it’s a tough time of year—it’s cold, it’s close to the holidays—so it really started with one of our previous peer-health educators who wanted to provide resources where students are. We know at that time a lot of students are in libraries preparing for exams,” Visconti says. “The whole idea of Unwind Your Mind is about bringing resources to students and making sure they feel cared for during that time.”
The initiative now takes in all eight campus libraries and provides everything from mental health resources and academic help to healthy snack handouts and fun, stress-busting activities like blindfolded painting, pet therapy, board games, Play-Doh, sudoku and more. There will also be lots of pillows available.
Visconti adds that Recreation Services is taking part to provide students with much-needed physical activity.
“There are lots of things that fall off when you focus on studying, so the fitness component is a reminder that, when you’re studying, you need to care for your body, mind and spirit,” she says. “In Cameron Library we have a fitness space so they can do yoga and pilates, and there’s also equipment in there if they want to do stretching or use a jump rope or exercise bands.”
Juanita Gnanapragasam, a fourth-year biology student who is one of the organizers behind the event, says she wanted to get more involved after helping out at a previous event.
“As a volunteer, you can see the difference it makes, even just a one-minute interaction with students,” she says. “I know how much it means to them.”
Bryana Rousselle, a fifth-year psychology student who is also part of the Unwind Your Mind team, says she hopes initiatives like this will catch on and happen more often than at the end-of-semester crunch.
“We’d like to start away moving away from providing the service ourselves and toward providing tool kits for faculties and other groups to start doing this on their own,” she says.
For more information on Unwind Your Mind, as well as a full schedule of activities and details of the Unwind Your Mind Photo Contest, visit uab.ca/unwind.
Student support: Help is here
Along with Unwind Your Mind, the University of Alberta provides a number of support services for students throughout the year.