VIU’s counselling department is offering new initiatives and workshops to help students combat stress and anxiety, as well as a new room to practice mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation in the Health and Wellness Centre.

New this year, the Wellness Series workshops are scheduled group sessions based on the core reasons students go to see counsellors, said VIU counsellor Michelle Daoust.

Each of the five workshops (The Art of Relating, Emotional Pain is Not a Sickness, Living Well While You Learn, Stress: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly, and Transforming Anxiety) are scheduled twice in the semester. A full description and schedule for each workshop can be found on the VIU website.

“We meet with students whenever they hit road bumps,” said  Daoust. “Most of our work has been one-on-one counselling, but we think it is wonderful when we can connect larger groups of people. These techniques are not stigma-inducing like the counselling department, unfortunately, still is.”

The new room, the Breathing Space, is open to all staff and students as a place to sit in silence, practice meditation, or simply relax. There will also be scheduled sessions which may include breathing exercises, guided meditation, walking meditation, basic stretching, body scans, and relaxation techniques.

“Mindfulness has become huge in North America over the last 30 years, but this way of being in the present moment with yourself has been around for thousands of years,” said Daoust.  “So we wanted to offer a place where we can facilitate mindful movement and meditation activities right on campus.”

The scheduled guided sessions are taking place every Thursday this semester. From September 17-October 29, the sessions are 12:15-12:45 p.m.; from November 5-December 15 they will be at 11:15-11:45 a.m.

“There will be one mindfulness and meditation room for women, and one for men,” Daoust said. “The reason for this is because the Muslim population uses separate rooms for men and women, and so we have been able to offer that need.”

mindfulThe room will be open for use whenever the building is open, from 6:45 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday to Friday. The only other times access will be restricted is if a group of students books the room in advance for private use. There are no appointments or signing up needed to use the room or participate in the booked mindful movement and meditation times.

“This is a space to sit and be; it’s a place to quiet the mind and body. So it’s not for a group of students that want to get together in a quiet space to do a research paper.”

Both the new workshops and the guided Breathing Space sessions will be led by VIU’s five counsellors. The department wants to have more hours in the day where there will be someone in the room doing guided meditations and, later on, they would also like to have other members in the community with a knowledge of guiding mindful movement and meditation come lead sessions.

“We are hoping to bring a new way of being to the student,” Daoust said. “We want to find a way of well-being beyond just therapy through talking, with a way to connect mind, body, and spirit.”

The Health and Wellness Centre is located in bldg. 200, with the Wellness Series Workshops in rm. 237 and the Breathing Space in rm. 107B.