Meditation, biofeedback among ways to help anxious students at UW-River Falls

Posted November 30, 2016

With final exams quickly approaching, Student Health and Counseling Services at UW-River Falls has a few options to help students who are anxious or need a moment to decompress.

Mark Huttemier, a personal counselor, has started a weekly program in the meditation room located in Hagestad Hall.

“Meditation has a lot of impact to kind of deprogram some of the distraction stuff I think that happens to us in our culture, how fast our culture is,” Huttemier said.

Huttemier said he believes that meditation allows students to step back and experience themselves as they are doing something in a way that they might not have been able to do before.

The room is open every day of the week from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for anyone wanting to use it, but Huttemier leads a guided meditation every Wednesday from 3:30-4 p.m. The class averages about 10-12 students attending each week.

The meditation room was opened three years ago, but this is the first year that a guided meditation class is offered.

Student Health and Counseling Services also offers a biofeedback program. Biofeedback is a computer program that helps a person monitor emotions by looking at their breathing and heart rate.

Kaleah Bautch, a personal counselor, has taken a special interest in the program.

The program works by monitoring a person’s heart rate through a device, attached to the ear, that reads the heart rhythm while the participant uses games or programs on the computer.

“You’re kind of trying to switch your body from those negative emotions to the positive. It’s a way to soothe your body but have an alert, focused mind,” Bautch said.

The program allows a person to see the impact of their emotions on the body’s breathing and heart rate in order to help increase awareness of those emotions and to help learn to better manage them.

“It’s kind of, in a way, a self-soothing technique,” Bautch said.

Bautch recommends the program to anyone with focus issues, anxiety, trying to learn coping skills, and for athletes.

Bautch has also started doing animal-assisted therapy this semester. This is different from the pet therapy program that takes place the first Friday of every month.

Bautch’s dog, Mocha, is a certified therapy dog. She brings the dog in two days a week for anyone who wants to partake in one-on-one therapy with Bautch and the dog.

“She’s really good for people with high anxiety or (that) kind of aren’t sure about the whole therapy process. It’s been really successful so far,” Bautch said.

If a student wants to get active to beat the stress, counselors may also recommend yoga.

“Yoga is a way to experience your body and your body relaxing to relax your brain. That’s a great lesson,” Huttemier said.

Student Health and Counseling Services also offers a lightbox for those suffered from seasonal affective disorder, as well as a massage chair for those just looking to unwind. These can be found in the relaxation room in the Student Health and Counseling Services office, 211 Hagestad Hall. The relaxation room is available for any student and can be reserved for up to an hour.

Guided meditation, biofeedback, use of the relaxation room, and yoga do not require a student to be enrolled in counseling.