By Bridget Sjoberg | Staff Writer
On a college campus like Baylor, it’s common for school and social pressures to cause high levels of stress for students, an issue the Counseling Center hopes the Mind Body Lab will help with.
The Mind Body Lab was created in early 2017 with the goal of providing resources in a calming space to assist students with relaxation and ways to destress. The lab contains equipment related to breathing and heart rate, as well as resources with information on meditation and improving mental health.
Baylor’s Counseling Center has two locations on campus — the Student Life Center and Dutton Avenue Parking Garage. The Mind Body Lab can be found at the Dutton location and takes walk-in students and appointments.
Jim Marsh, executive director of counseling services, is going on his 20th year at Baylor and said he has noticed an increase in reports of anxiety in recent years as well as an increase in students who take advantage of Baylor’s counseling center.
“When I started here we had around 300 students come in a year. Last year, we saw 2,884 students, which is one in six students on campus,” Marsh said. “Baylor’s population has changed, but there is also a legitimate pressure that students experience and feel regarding academics and job expectations. In the last few years, anxiety has become the main reason students come in for counseling.”
Marsh said the Mind Body Lab resulted from the Counseling Department wanting to create a safe space on campus to learn skills related to relaxation. Available equipment at the Lab includes a device that monitors breathing and provides feedback and MP3 players with tracks related to “breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, meditation, guided imagery, health and well-being, sleep issues and food issues,” according to the Counseling Center’s website. Another highlight is a brain-sensing headband.
“The device provides real-time feedback as you meditate,” the website reads. “Through the headband, when your mind is calm, you hear a calming sound, and when your mind is unsettled you hear a strong wind sound. After each session, you’ll see how you did through a series of charts and graphs. The device is designed to help you improve your meditation practices.”
Marsh said he hopes students can use the Mind Body Lab not only for its equipment and resources, but also to learn skills that they can take outside of the lab and practice on their own.
“We’ve tried to think of ways to help students that don’t require one of us necessarily having to be there,” Marsh said. “The lab is an example of that. We have different types of biofeedback equipment to control breathing and heart rate, for example, that aren’t expensive software programs. We’ve tried to find things that are simple so anyone could pick them up. We don’t want students to be dependent on a space — we’ve tried to find things that people could purchase on their own and use in their dorm room.”
Along with the Mind Body Lab, Marsh hopes students take advantage of other services the Counseling Center has to offer, including one-on-one counseling and other programs like Therapist Assisted Online (TAO).
“Any Baylor student can go online and find TAO, which contains lots of modules that are specific to college students on anxiety, depression and other topics. There is also a mindfulness library with resources related to relaxation, deep breathing and imagery to help with stress. Any student can access these without having to come in to the counseling center,” Marsh said. “Every Tuesday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., one of our staff members is located on the second floor of the SUB. If a student doesn’t know much about counseling or has a specific problem, they can go and talk to that person.”
For one-on-one counseling, Marsh said the Counseling Center wants to make it as easy as possible for students to see someone. He emphasized that there are walk-in appointments from 9 a.m. to 5p.m. Monday through Friday. For students in need of more immediate help, there is a 24-hour hotline to call at 254-710-2467 to speak to staff after hours.
Marsh encourages students looking to destress to focus on the importance of sleep and exercise.
“Some stress is good since it helps us to be motivated and focus, but too much stress begins to interfere,” Marsh said. “Sleep is vastly underrated — research shows the connection between lack of sleep and problems like stress and anxiety. Also, try and do some form of exercise at least thirty minutes a day — it has a lot of stress-relieving benefits.”
Round Rock sophomore Kierranne O’Malley said she sees the Mind Body Lab as an important resource on campus, especially mid-semester when tests and assignments can become overwhelming.
“The Mind Body Lab is extremely beneficial to students and should be promoted more as another resource we have here on campus,” O’Malley said. “It will continue to help students in a positive way, especially when the semester is almost over and finals hit.”
O’Malley said she appreciates increased awareness for mental health at Baylor and believes resources like the Lab can help support students when it comes to their physical and emotional well-being.
“Increasing awareness helps students realize that it’s ok to not be ok, and that it’s normal to go through things like anxiety or depression,” O’Malley said. “It helps students feel more confident about seeking the help they need and more comfortable talking about their problems.”