Treat Yourself at the Student Recreation Center
On April 23, Georgia State University students were invited to take a break from studying and visit the Department of Recreational Services’ Treat Yourself event. From 3 to 5 p.m., students could choose between several activities located throughout the Student Recreation Center natatorium. Activities included yoga, chair massages and meditation. “Our Aquatics Center has some fantastic ways to de-stress, so we strategically placed the tables and activities in the natatorium to get students down there to see what we offer,” explains Jenny Lehigh, Assistant Director for Fitness.
“When I think of relaxation, the first thing that comes to mind is a massage,” says Larissa Brown, Instructional Programs & Group Exercise Coordinator. Brown reached out to massage therapist Meredith Grech, who periodically gives chair massages to Georgia State University faculty and staff through the Office of Employee Development and Wellness Services, commonly referred to as EDWS. Grech was given space in the aquatic coordinator’s office to create a relaxing oasis, complete with soothing music and aromatherapy. Consequently, her chair massages quickly became a crowd favorite as students lined up to patiently wait their turn.
Occurring simultaneously on the other side of the natatorium, students enjoyed the afternoon breeze while participating in a yoga class by the back-patio entrance. “Many people find yoga very relaxing, but it can be hard to commit to a full class,” says Lehigh. “At the Treat Yourself event, we offered short sessions where you could easily join and leave at your convenience.”
Students could also jump onto an inflatable inner tube to experience some mindful meditation on the pool deck. Linnie Vassallo, Mind-Body & Mindfulness Coordinator at Georgia State University’s Counseling & Testing Center, led students through a series of breathing exercises and meditation. “Mindfulness meditation is a type of meditation that teaches you how to train your attention,” Vassallo explains. She continues, “It increases your awareness that your thoughts are straying and enhances your ability to redirect your attention. Like moving the beam of a flashlight, you can direct and sustain your attention on a thought, regardless of the distractions that come along.” Using the inflatable inner tubes as seats, students followed along as Vassallo used her voice and a small bowl that chimed when struck to focus her participants’ attention. Students were instructed to concentrate on their five senses, feel their breath flow in and out of their bodies, and simply notice what their thoughts and emotions were at that moment. “Mindfulness meditation can be used as a tool for regulating your emotions, and it can help with your ability to handle stress,” explains Vassallo. She offers one-on-one sessions, called performance consultations, where she teaches mindfulness skills to help with academic or athletic performance. She has also offered group sessions to various organizations on campus, like Georgia State’s College of Law and College of Education and Human Development. “It takes a great amount of concentration and effort, but it can be very rewarding,” summarizes Vassallo.
Rachel Jones, Department of Recreational Services Graduate Assistant for Nutrition, provided healthy snacks to boost participating students’ brain performance during finals week. In addition to giving out trail mix, tangerines, and bottled water, Jones also distributed information on making healthier snack choices. “We wanted to show that there are great grab and go options when you don’t have a lot of time to think about food,” says Lehigh. She explains, “Since food choices impact cognitive function, students can use natural sugar found in fruit or chocolate found in trail mix to fuel their brains when they study for their tests.” She continues, “Access to easy, portable snacks is key during hectic times like finals week.”
The “Treat Yourself” idea came from the popular television sitcom “Parks and Recreation.” Lehigh explains, “On the show, a character takes off work and says she’s going to treat herself. We knew that students would be stressed heading into finals week, so we came up the relaxation theme, decided to call it ‘Treat Yourself,’ and reached out to different departments on campus, like Student Health Promotion and the Counseling and Testing Center, to partner with us.” Tammy Turner, Assistant Director of Student Wellness, provided great giveaways to promote healthy choices. Concludes Lehigh, “It was a great success and we plan to treat our students again in the fall!”