The UCI Center for Student Wellness and Health Promotion hosts Meditation Mondays with Wellness and Peer Education Programs Manager Natalie D’Azzo on Instagram Live every Monday at 2 p.m.
D’Azzo leads a 20-minute mindfulness meditation, encouraging participants to acknowledge their current state of being and conduct a brief body scan.
In the midst of the pandemic, the Center for Student Wellness and Health Promotion is working to transition all services virtually. Meditation Mondays is one of the programs that D’Azzo thought would be the easiest to transition as it could be facilitated on Instagram.
“[Meditation Mondays has] been something that I’ve been doing for a couple of years now and it’s just something that I wanted to continue to offer … it was just something that I felt was pretty easy to transition to a virtual format,” D’Azzo said.
After the meditation sessions end, the center posts the recordings on their official Instagram TV, allowing students, faculty, staff and community members to view it in their own time.
The platform provides a view count that exceeds their typical in-person turn out in previous years of about five to 15 participants per week.
“While that doesn’t give you a totally accurate number … I’ll look later, and I have 238 views on the first one, 175 on the second, 141 on the third. So I think the coolest part about switching to this virtual format is that I can potentially reach a wider audience,” D’Azzo said.
Despite being unable to offer in person services such as the Wellness Room or Lactation Station, the center’s main programs — educational workshops, consultations and peer health education programs — are still available to all students.
“I would say probably the biggest challenge was learning how to use Zoom really well, learning how to make presentations as interactive as we possibly can because we don’t want to just give a boring lecture. We want to engage the students,” D’Azzo said.
Utilizing polls, break out rooms and the chat box for discussion on Zoom were implemented in the center’s transition to a virtual platform.
One of the programs the center created since the beginning of the pandemic is the Therapy Pet Thursday event.
“I think it’s a really fun, lighthearted event if you’re not feeling like sitting through an educational workshop or doing some deep reflection in a journaling workshop or meditation. It’s a nice light alternative where we don’t have to talk about the stress of the world or school or what’s going on. We can just focus on cute animals for a little while,” D’Azzo said.
The multi-session workshops are meant to provide opportunities for students to implement wellness strategies into their personal life outside of an academic setting.
“There is room for growth and to continue to kind of expand on multi-session workshops because you get introduced to a topic, then you get to come back then next week and talk about it and expand on what you’ve learned or how you’ve implemented it into your life in a different setting versus academically,” she said. “This is really just about your personal well being, not about getting an A, [it’s about] something we can work on together and share; more discussion, more time to get to know the participants, to get to know each other and develop relationships and friendships through those workshop sessions.”
D’Azzo said that there was a disconnect between striving for productivity and health due to the lack of social support brought on by the pandemic.
“Sometimes there’s this idea that we can’t be well and take care of ourselves and also be goal driven and busy. There’s this belief that we have to be suffering … There’s this competition of being unwell, and competing for who’s slept the least, eaten the least and [drunk] the most coffee. I think that’s just so unhealthy and kind of toxic,” D’Azzo said.
According to D’Azzo, the meditation program is centered on “educating students, empowering them to make the best choices for themselves, supporting them to stay well during their time at UCI and teaching them skills that they can take with them afterwards.”
She noted that it would benefit students to think about their current wellness practices, give themselves credit for the things they are doing, maintain a routine and practice self care to create long term health and wellness.
“Wellness isn’t just a spa day or vacation or these big fancy things, but it’s the little daily things, the basics of eating, sleeping, staying hydrated, resting, exercising, maintaining our friendships, that we’re giving ourselves permission to do,” D’Azzo said. “It’s going against the culture that’s pushing you to keep going no matter what and to just keep studying for longer.”
Rachel Vu is a Campus News Intern for the 2020 Fall Quarter. She can be reached at email@example.com.