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UWRF helps students relax, deal with stress

November 12, 2009

Relaxation Practice Groups are being offered this year by Student Health Services to help students in dealing with overwhelming stress, according to UW-River Falls Mental Health Counselor Mark Huttemier.

The program, which was inspired by the mindfulness program at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, is just one of several activities designed to help students relax and feel good. The relaxation practice is an addition to the health and wellness program that includes yoga, Tai chi, and the Latin dance exercise, Zumba.

“The importance of these programs is tied to giving students a wide variety of options in managing stress,” Personal Counselor Jennifer Elsesser said. 

“Unfortunately, it seems the most attention is paid to services for students who have severe mental health issues, and we believe that all students should have access to preventative physical and mental health services.”

The relaxation practice is meant to help students for counseling and relieving stress, according to Huttemier. He said that most people don’t understand the
concept of doing nothing to relieve stress, and that’s why there are activities like yoga, because people feel that they need to be doing something to relieve stress. The relaxation practice allows participants to “escape into nothingness,” Huttemier said.

Huttemier said he got the inspiration for the program from the U of M mindfulness club. The purpose of the club is to help students deal with stress skillfully and build self-awareness through guided meditations, yoga, and qi gong, according to the club’s Web site. Although the club at the U of M is student-led, the relaxation practice at UWRF is still being run by Huttemier.

“The goal is for the program to become student-run,” Huttemier said. “This could allow for more spirituality to be incorporated into the practice, that I, as a staff member, cannot add.”

The relaxation practice only consists of about three to seven students. However, Huttemier said Zach Steeno, a sophomore at UWRF, has shown the most interest in the program and has attended regularly.

“I knew Mark before he even started up the group, and when he told me what he had planned, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it,” Steeno said.

Huttemier said he wishes more students were aware of the counseling services available to them.

“After four years, some students don’t even know we have counseling,” he said.

The plan is to go out to the residence halls and promote the program and other programs offered by Student Health Services and counseling.

Huttemier said he believes that relaxation activites like these are extremely important in helping relieve stress from students’ lives, especially as finals approach.

“I like the fact that, despite being in the middle of a busy and stressful week, you have a chance to go and just relax your mind, let go of any stresses you
have to worry about and just have peace for a while,” Steeno said.

“Meditation is great for relieving, reviving and refreshing the mind.”