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Mind Spa offers support and relaxation for stressed students

In college, students balance school, work and relationships, while trying to succeed in all of them. Managing these responsibilities can cause stress and anxiety. While counseling might work for some people, others might feel intimidated by the idea of talking to a professional. In that case, learning new ways of managing stress might be an effective solution. The Mind Spa, located at 120 Memorial Union, is a place where you can do just that.

Located in the outreach and education office, the Mind Spa existed at the University of Maine under different formats for nearly four years. Previously called Brain Spa, it did not become Mind Spa until 2 1/2 years ago.

“It is a place for anyone, student, staff, faculty to just come and relax,” Shane Cushing, a graduate assistant at the Outreach and Education office, said. “It is an open and affirming place. We don’t turn anyone away.”

Mind Spa staff do not perform clinical work, meaning that they cannot offer counseling advice.

They are there to listen and be a resource.

So what is Mind Spa like? It is a room located on the first floor of the Union by the ATM machines. The doors of the Mind Spa are open Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Inside the room that is lit by Christmas lights, you will find a coffee machine along with a selection of various teas. If you want to destress, you can occupy yourself with Play-Doh or coloring books.

People tend to consider coloring a children’s activity. However, coloring can also be beneficial for adults who wish to relieve stress. According to the American Art Therapy Association, coloring books “provide a controlled, contained use of art for self-soothing purposes.”

“Coloring forces you to slow down and color inside the lines, play with colors and pigments,” Cushing said.

If Play-Doh and coloring is not for you, the Mind Spa also offers biofeedback, guided meditation, and light therapy. Light therapy is an effective treatment to fight back seasonal blues using sun lamps.

“People really enjoy coming to the Mind Spa. I think, in a way, it is an alternative experience; a lot of people think: ‘If I am stressed and freaking out, maybe I should go to counseling.’ But counseling isn’t for everybody. So if you come here, you might discover activities that you didn’t know could relieve your stress,” Cushing said.

The Mind Spa also collaborates with Residence Life by bringing a mobile version of the Mind Spa to residence halls.

“At first people are really shy to come over, especially because they know we are affiliated with the Counseling Center. We understand that not everybody likes the idea of counseling,” Cushing said.

Mind Spa is a branch of the Counseling Center that enables students to help themselves. It helps them get past the stigma of coming into the Mind Spa office or the Counseling Center. Since Mind Spa is run by a staff made up of students, Cushing believes that it is a lot easier for students to approach them.

Third-year student Jane Pappas first saw the Mind Spa while walking by in the Union. She started learning more about it from her friend Casey Rogers, a student employee at Mind Spa. Papas visited Mind Spa once for an extended period of time and engaged in coloring.

“I was really impressed with it’s relaxing atmosphere,” Pappas said. Pappas shared that she will likely visit Mind Spa again. “It is a sort of thing I would enjoy around finals when, you really need that break.”

During midterms and finals, the Mind Spa gets busy with 20-30 people stopping by during the week.

“People are really stressed out, and at that point, they are willing to try anything,” Cushing said.

This year, the Mind Spa launched a new series of four workshops. One-hour interactive sessions are offered on a rotating basis on following topics: stress management, helping skills, relationship skills and a “love yourself” workshop on self esteem, self compassion and self care. These workshops are held on Thursdays at 12 p.m. in the Bumps Room of the Memorial Union. Location changes are posted on FirstClass.

“If you need a break in your day when you don’t have to worry about school or homework, Mind Spa is a nice little oasis on campus where you can unwind. Take 15 minutes out of your day, that time is not gonna break you when you have a thousand things to do and it will probably be very good for you,” Pappas said.

For more information about the Mind Spa, please visit their website or contact Shane Cushing on FirstClass.

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