KOKOMO, Ind. – The start of a new semester is a stressful time, with meeting new professors, learning new schedules, and beginning to plan for assignments and projects.
Faculty and staff in the Indiana University Kokomo School of Education offered students a chance to relax and reset, with its Week of Wellness and Reconnection. The week included yoga, a campus walk, learning about resetting the brain to calm emotions, art therapy, and more, all meant to help relieve stress and build camaraderie.
Dean Leah Nellis said that teaching self-care and creating relationships are essential for preparing future educators for the classroom due to the increased pressure on teachers, including the teacher shortage.
“The overall goal was to promote a sense of belonging and community in the School, and give opportunities for fun, laughter, and self-care that will teach students strategies they might use in the future,” she said.
During a yoga session, students stretched on yoga mats in the Havens Auditorium lobby, concentrating on muscles in specific areas of their bodies. With soft music in the background, instructor Allison Duffitt led them on their hands and knees on the mats, stretching and extending their legs behind them, relaxing their hips and backs, where Duffitt said they are most likely to carry stress.
Susan Kastle, a freshman from Atlanta, Georgia, especially enjoyed learning about the amygdala, a part of the brain that focuses on emotions. When someone is upset or angry, it becomes flooded with stress hormones, leaving him or her unable to learn. Students learned how to use sensory objects to reset and regulate stress hormones.
“These are techniques I can use for myself, or as inspiration for my future classroom,” she said, adding that the yoga helps her learn to let go of her need to be in control.
“I stress about everything. I’m an over-planner,” she continued. “Yoga forces you to let go, and think about your breathing, and focus on movement. You might fall over, and you might not, but you focus on what you are doing in the moment.”
Emma Watson, Kokomo, had always wanted to do yoga, but “I’m not the most flexible,” she said, and she was nervous to try. In a group of beginners, she felt more comfortable.
“This was exactly what I wanted,” Watson said. “I might consider taking a class now that I know what to expect. It’s a good way to relax my muscles and handle stress. It was so relaxing, especially when the music was on.”
As a senior, she added, that every semester is a little more stressful, as she prepares for student teaching and then graduates to her own classroom.
“Yoga relaxes your entire mind and body,” she said. “This is definitely a good option to let me destress my mind and my muscles. These self-care activities are important for teachers, because of how stressful the job can be.”
Senior Annie Adams said she enjoys yoga, and thinks it would be a great relaxation technique for her future students. She found it helped her handle the hustle and bustle of the first week back in class better than she would have otherwise.
“This week is stressful, with starting new classes, getting all the syllabi, and starting back up again,” the Peru resident said. “We’re having so much fun doing this and getting exercise.”
The Week of Wellness and Reconnection was offered through the IU Kokomo Experience and You, or KEY Program, which provides students with experiential learning programs.