Around 25 students attended CAB’s mental health event for advice on improving the ability to handle anxiety and stress in the Campus Center Ballroom Tuesday afternoon.
With finals approaching and stress levels rising, the event was held a week prior to the University banning clubs and organizations to host events due to dead week.
It featured a talk from Niki Elliot, co-director of the Center for Neurodiversity, Learning and Wellness, which focused not only on the impact of anxiety and stress toward students’ academic performance, but also on discovering mindfulness tricks to help them cope with common stressors.
“When I train teachers in mindfulness and how to bring it to their classrooms, the same thing we’re seeing in K-12 is the same I’m seeing in college students who adopt these practices,” Elliot said. “Increase in self-regulation, decreases in anxiety, improvement in sleep and focus for learning.”
Elliot broke down the science behind the brain’s fight and flight system and how anxiety affects the body’s reactions.
“Our bodies are designed to prioritize survival and reproduction; learning is a bonus,” Elliot said. “We might sit down with an intention to learn and force ourselves to learn, but in the presence of stress and anxiety, our body does not move learning into the prefrontal cortex where we have long-term memory.”
The body returns the information down into the sympathetic nervous system to build more cortisol, causing to add more fight or flight.
Elliot emphasized the importance of speaking about stress and anxiety to collegiate audiences because of the high amount of people feeling that these feelings are just part of the college lifestyle, along with teaching mindfulness tricks to overcome them.
“I think it’s critical because many people feel that stress and anxiety is something we can’t do about and is just part of the college culture and what you have to deal with,” Elliot said. “I believe truly in my heart that these mindfulness tools and social, emotional learning, the SDL curriculum in higher education, should be a mandatory foundational piece of every college student’s education for freshman year.”
Elliot concluded her talk by unwrapping the five gifts of mindfulness, which was designed for audience members to unwrap the gift bags and share the posters of five different words.
She followed with a brief demonstration of each activity that would help and control mental states.
The five gifts are equanimity, compassion, gratitude, attunement and authenticity, in which a person’s mental state can be more controllable with consistent practice.
Mark Vasquez, sophomore kinesiology major and CAB special events chairman, wanted to hold a more inclusive event for everyone to attend, learn and apply mindfulness activities to combat stress as finals are approaching.
“I wanted to make it more inclusive with everybody, so we decided to do something like this with finals coming up,” Vasquez said. “I understand that a lot of people are going through stress and anxiety, so we decided to do something beneficial for students that they can attend and learn, as well as take something that they can use in future processes.”
Charles Lapuz, senior business administration major and CAB marketing chairman, expressed the importance of hosting a mental health event to help students realize that they’re not alone and how just a few tricks can help battle anxiety.
“With the stress levels that students are going through, it’s important to attend and throw an event like this for students to understand that it’s not the end of the world and also to learn how to handle the stress they have to go through,” Lapuz said.
Audience engagement was a main focal point throughout the event because Elliot not only discussed about the mindfulness tips, but also had members perform the activities as a way to help them build that consistency in integrating it as a lifelong practice.
Jacob Mendoza, CAPA student and educational studies major, felt that the University should continue to hold more mental health and mindfulness talks because these tips can be applied by anyone regardless of age, which allows events to be more inclusive.
“When these events are open to everybody, it’s good because these practices are for everybody,” Mendoza said. “It can help any age of student and person, from a 2-year-old to a 92-year-old.”
Nicolette Rojo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.