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Counseling Center creates Zen Den to relieve stress

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Photo by Devi Shastri/ devi.shastri@marquette.edu

Photo by Devi Shastri/ devi.shastri@marquette.edu

Photo by Devi Shastri/ devi.shastri@marquette.edu

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In an effort to alleviate high stress, the university’s Counseling Center created the “Zen Den,” a quiet resource space for students.

The den is reserved for meditation, yoga, Wii Fit, light box therapy and biofeedback technology,  counselors and therapists will use to teach their patients how to control involuntary responses to anxiety and stress.

Lynn O’Brien, a university counselor and coordinator of sexual violence prevention and treatment, said the human body has unhealthy and unconscious reactions to stress and anxiety. The responses, which include tightening of muscles, increased perspiration, body temperature, faster breathing or heart rate, can become so common that they’re unnoticeable.

“It’s one thing for me to have somebody in the room and to talk about ‘if you breathe you’ll feel better’ and ‘how do you feel when you feel stressed;’ (and another) to actually see it on the screen,” said Jodi Blahnik, a university counselor and coordinator of assessment and ADHD services. “We hook (patients) up and show them some of the programs, and I can say, ‘I want you to think about…something stressful.’ Then they can actually see the movement on (a screen.) That evidence is really powerful for people.”

The biofeedback technology includes sensors which measure heart rate and perspiration rate and show the subject’s readings on a TV screen. Some programs contain guided meditations which allow the patient to see exactly how his or her readings change as you relax your mind and body.

One biofeedback game called Rock Garden teaches users how to control their heart rate and energy level so they can balance virtual rocks atop one another. If the player stops feeling calm, a rock flies off the screen.

Students or faculty can use the biofeedback programs by scheduling a 50-minute intake (training) session, after which they can reserve the Zen Den for half-hour sessions.

Biofeedback programs can be used on their own without traditional counseling. Though it’s considered by professionals to be an effective supplement to counseling or even a substitute to medication, individuals who want a way to deal with the daily stresses of life can use biofeedback to understand themselves better.

The Counseling Center will  be hosting an open house and weekly Mindful Minutes meditation sessions as the semester progresses.

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