IHHS Center for Well-Being
Institute for Holistic Health Studies (IHHS)
The Center for Well-Being
Christel Autuori, Director
White Hall Room 114
Meditation at WCSU by Dajae Rose and Satil Moni. Featured in the ECHO on December 2, 2021
Squirreled away on the first floor of White Hall, a small room smelling of lavender offers Western Connecticut State University students a sweet, chocolatey moment to calm down before their next class.
The Institute for Holistic Health Studies offers many services geared to supplement the mental and emotional health of WCSU students. These include simple breathing meditation, guided imagery, “yoga off the mat,” and mindfulness meditations conducted through coloring and savoring bites of chocolate.
Stress is how the brain and body respond to any demand. Any type of challenge, such as performance at work or school, a significant life change, or a traumatic event, can be stressful. These can affect overall health. It is critical to pay attention to how one deals with minor and major stressors, so they know when to seek help.
This year, with the formal return of students to campus, Professor Christel Autuori, the director of the IHHS, wants to revamp the Institute’s efforts to inform students of all the ways they can manage their stress. She especially wishes to advertise the green, ambient space dedicated to that quiet, peaceful moment that students frequently find themselves desiring.
“In these complicated COVID-19 times, with all the disruptions, difficulties, and disturbances in life, we seek familiar structure, routine, and stability. Holistic self-care is more important than ever,” Autuori said.
However, she understands that there is a slight stigma around the practice of meditation.
“People think you have to sit on a cushion for 20 minutes to meditate, but all you have to do is really just focus on one thing for a period of time,” she noted. But the IHHS is the perfect place to do that while on campus, free of distractions, according to Autuori. “Maybe we should use the term ‘self-care’ for an event and see how that works out? People are very drawn towards ‘self-care’ these days.”
This stigma is also partly why the IHHS teaches so many kinds of meditation and calming methods. The variety of these methods makes it easier and more appealing to students to find a technique that successfully moves their attention from their stressors to a singular, separate point of focus. The IHHS has many distinct sensory stimuli for students and faculty to redirect all their attention: a jar of shells, calming instrumental/acapella music and herbal tea, and a lending library.
On Sept. 22, the IHHS held its first in-person event of the semester called Mindful Movement and Stress Management. The IHHS staff has not yet planned any future events due to the ongoing pandemic situation and limited space available on campus. However, the IHHS will continue to offer Stressbusters, usually an in-person event that invites several holistic practitioners to teach students several meditative practices and holistic health knowledge, in a virtual format this semester. These practices include reiki, mudra meditations, restorative yoga, sound healing, and herbal remedies for stress relief. A critical benefit of the virtual format of Stressbusters is that it is accessible to students 24/7 on the WCSU website.
Zenia Coleman, a sophomore at WCSU, attended a virtual Stressbusters this past August. “The event was very informing and relaxing,” she said. “I was really stressed and overwhelmed coming to a new campus and adjusting to new roommates. I got on the shuttle bus and saw an ad on the TV screen for a Stressbusters event and decided to go and see what it was about. But after joining the session, I had a sense of relief.”
“Although the IHHS is unable to present programs and events in-person on campus, we are committed to continue offering educational opportunities supporting the health and wellbeing of the body, mind, and spirit,” Autuori explained.
The Institute for Holistic Health Studies is open for walk-ins Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., and Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., or by appointment on the first floor of White Hall on Midtown Campus.