December 11, 2018

BY JOSHUA VAN OSTRAND

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The Mindfulness Group is being run again for its fifth semester as part of an effort to help students manage stress and function in high-stress environments. The group is offered by Counselling Services and led by Shawna Bernard, a counsellor, and Linda Juodvalkis, community services faculty.

“The goal of the Mindfulness Group is to help teach students mindfulness strategies,” said Bernard. “To give students an opportunity to practise mindfulness techniques in the group and also for students to be able to support one another. It’s a combination of an educational skills-building group and a support group.”

Some of the skills covered by the group include various forms of meditation from walking and labyrinth meditation to breathing meditations. The group follows the protocols set by the University of Massachusetts’ mindfulness-based stress reduction program.

According to Bernard, positive effects of the mindfulness strategies include the ability to manage stress in a positive way, helping students to feel more present and to help enhance mental well-being.

“By learning about this, people will learn that mindfulness is a practice of being able to pay attention in the moment, as well as being able to self-regulate your body. It’s very common if we feel very stressed or anxious that we can feel scattered or have the anxiety response in our body but (these strategies) help people to feel more present and focused.”

“(To manage stress) I take deep cleansing baths,” said Tyler Cox, a second-year journalism broadcast student. “I try more and more to be less impulsive. I try to think positive and ward off any kind of big situations that occur from being stressed out.”

During the first meeting, students introduce themselves and are taught about mindfulness. Students practise the techniques they’ve learned and then talk about how it has affected them. Going forward, students are asked to provide updates on their progress and the successes they’ve made with these techniques.

“I think we talk about how all of us experience stress and that there’s good stress and bad stress. I think it’s normal that when people are studying, when they’re in a place of transition or balancing school and other responsibilities outside of school, I think it’s historical that stress is part of a student’s life and what we’d like to do is provide support to students.”

The deadline for registration is Friday, Jan. 22. Interested students can register by emaling Counselling Services at counsellingservicesreception@conestogac.on.ca or in person at the reception desk in Rm. 1A101. The free eight-week group will begin meeting on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 4 p.m. and will meet each week after that.

Outside of the Mindfulness Group, there are other great ways to manage stress as a student.

“The best way to manage stress is to be balanced, to have a good time-management system,” said Bernard. “Take care of yourself in terms of exercise. Students can access the rec centre. Exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. It’s also important to eat healthily and to sleep adequately. We have lots of resources on campus to help students manage stress.”

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