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Artvoice Weekly Edition » Issue v12n3 (01/17/2013) » Health & Fitness Feature

"When I Feel Healthy I AM..."

“When we asked students to finish this phrase, students said: I am happy, I am focused, I am connected. That is exactly the kind of health we want to promote on campus,” says Sherry Darrow, PhD, director of Wellness Education Services at the University at Buffalo. In the last seven years her department has doubled in size as they have tried to meet the needs of the nearly 29,000 students. “We try to prepare them for the world, keep them successful in school, and nurture them as healthy citizens.”

The National College Health Assessment also informs Wellness Services programming. In 2010, the results showed the number one impediment to grades is stress. Trying to balance academic and social demands, coping with new and difficult situations like roommate disharmony or homesickness can manifest as problems with sleep, anxiety, changes in eating, and lower overall student performance. One small step available to students is the Stress-Survivor Kit. Students can borrow one and share the experiences of aromatherapy, reflexology and relaxation techniques with friends. They can also visit the Wellness Suite where students can have a warm cup of herbal tea in a comfy chair, eat a healthy snack and get some relief with a chair massage. Emergency pregnancy tests and contraception are also available there.

There are even healthy resources just a few clicks away on the Desktop Spa website. Students can view short instructional videos on various healing arts techniques like tai chi, visualizations, and breathing exercises. It is hopeful to see the college experience changed to meet the needs of our stressful culture.

“We are one of the best campuses around for our wellness,” Darrow reports. “We also know that yoga can provide a way of managing that stress, so we provide yoga classes on both campuses offered at the end of the day.”

One very unique yoga class is called Universal Design Yoga. The program is a collaborative effort between the UB department of Accessibility Services, the Student Wellness Center, and the School for Public Health and Health Professions. Compared to a regular yoga class, the UDY program reaches an even wider population. “In offering UDY, we expand students minds about who yoga is for,” Darrow says. The UDY model draws on the concepts of universal design, which refers to creating an intentional environment that is inherently accessible to people with and without disabilities. UDY also takes an open approach to utilizing various traditions of yoga with three, differently trained, rotating lead teachers.

This April, Matthew Sanford, who has been instrumental to the development of the UDY program, is coming to UB for a weekend of events that is open to the community. “His concepts and ways of thinking about yoga and doing yoga as an individual who is a T4 paraplegic has grounded the program in a way that no one else would be able to do,” says Susan Mann Dolce, PhD, of UB Accessibility Services. Sanford is an Iyengar yoga teacher. An Iyengar yoga teacher title takes many years to complete. It is a rigorous training where the yoga poses are taught in a precise way, with misalignments and errors actively corrected. Based on his experience, Sanford has developed his own training and has been teaching yoga teachers how to assist or modify yoga poses for people with varying abilities. From Thursday, April 26 through Sunday April 29, Sanford will hold two talks on campus, one titled “A Mind Body Approach to Healing and Recovery” and another about his book, Waking. He will also lead a 15-hour training called “Opening Yoga to Everyone” for yoga teachers and health professionals in and around Western New York with the UDY team.

Going to college is a big transition. Traditionally, in the first six weeks of school, drinking is more prevalent, so Wellness Services offers programs like late-night games. “We know that students self-medicate,” Darrow says. “That could mean alcohol, which is the number one drug on college campus. Marijuana is number two. Surveys show about 50 percent of students abstain from drug use, and 20 to 30 percent of students on campus drink to the point that causes negative consequences.”

There is a strong focus on educating students on alcohol consumption as well as practices for living healthy. For instance students learn the non-damaging guideline of one drink per hour, and that women do not metabolize alcohol the same way as men. Around finals they hold a “Chill Out” event where students learn stress management techniques, are introduced to some relaxing yoga poses, and indulge in healthy snacks and play.

QPC training (question, persuade, and refer) is given to the campus staff through Counseling Services. The teaching staff learns how to identify signs that a student might have a drug or drinking problem and practice asking questions that may be uncomfortable or difficult to see if the student needs help.

In the last few years, Wellness Education Services in conjunction with the School of Public Health, now offers a minor degree in Health and Wellness. These students study the fundamentals of wellness, explore health issues on campus and compare media to reality. They also learn why it is important to create safe and welcoming environments for everyone, to be open and accepting of every kind of diversity as well as broaden students understanding of their relationships between themselves and the environment. These students become peer educators on safety, substance use, gender, health, nutrition, nonviolence (UB has been nationally recognized for their violence prevention program), and assist at the UDY program.

And, if that was not enough, Wellness also has had the opportunity for collaborations with the UB medical school and the Health Sciences Library. In their first year the Wellness team has been able to answer the call to help medical students lower their stress level with free weekly chair massage. They are hoping to expand that partnership next year.

In an effort to make UB as healthy as possible, they have also joined hundreds of other college campuses in creating a smoke-free campus. Basically, if you smell tobacco smoke, you are breathing in cancer-causing chemicals. The policy creates a cleaner campus as well (did you know one cigarette butt takes 25 years to decompose!) There is also a supportive program on campus to help students and faculty quit smoking which includes personal quit coaches who can help with the challenges. Go Bulls!

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