In response to students struggling to cope with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cal Poly Pomona’s Counseling and Psychological Services and the Cesar E. Chavez Center for Higher Education are collaborating to host virtual mental health workshops beginning Sept. 14.
“Mindfulness Mondays,” as the self-care promoting sessions are called, give students an opportunity to gather, unwind and be mentally present. CAPS and the Cesar E. Chavez center hope that the virtual workshops will help improve the state of student mental health in the comfort of their own homes.
According to Maria Gisela Sanchez Cobo, the lead CAPS counselor for the workshops, the main objective was to provide a space where students feel their well-being is prioritized.
“Extensive research shows that practicing mindfulness is a helpful way to increase our ability to manage stress and be resilient under challenging circumstances,” Cobo said. “For young adults and their brain development, practicing mindfulness can be a great way to increase self-awareness and self-compassion.”
Each session will consist of various activities centered around the theme of “being in the moment.” These activities include meditation, breathing exercises, stretches and journaling, all accompanied by soothing soundtracks.
In recent years, practicing mindfulness has become a popular self-care activity. Originally derived from Buddhist traditions, the exercise is intended to reduce stress through relaxation techniques, which also helps increase productivity. With its benefits, the practice has been embraced by many, including college campuses and large business corporations who consider it an essential aspect of employee development training.
While the advantages of practicing mindfulness are many, some are averse to the thought of performing these activities alongside strangers on Zoom.
“I would definitely feel uncomfortable having a camera staring me straight in the face while I try to do breathing techniques,” said Joshua Martinez, a fourth-year biology student.
Due to the similar concerns rising among students, Wendy Córdova, the Cesar E. Chavez center coordinator in charge of Mindfulness Mondays, explained that the workshop will foster a safe and welcoming environment by allowing students to turn off their cameras during the workshop series, with no obligation to attend every single session.
“There is a stigma regarding mental health, within the Latinx community especially, and the students really don’t want something like psychotherapy, but a bridge in between,” Córdova said. “So, with all things considered, I wanted to provide an introduction to them in terms of what mindfulness is. This is something that our campus is doing for the student body because we know that they could use it right now.”
The new virtual format can contribute to bringing inner peace to students during times of uncertainty and disorder by alleviating a portion of the stress associated with discussing mental health in a real-life group setting.
“Mindfulness can’t change what is happening around us or our reality, but it can help us hold ourselves through the experience and allow us to see the outside world with a greater sense of equanimity,” Cobos said.
The 30-minute workshop will occur every Monday via Zoom from 3:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. from Sept. 14 through Dec. 7. For more information, visit the myBar event page.
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