University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Big Red Resilience and Wellbeing hopes the simple act of raking sand and placing rocks in a box will provide an escape from the stress of dead week for students.
The organization is holding a Zen garden-making event to promote their Zen Room each day from 3 to 4:30 p.m. through Friday, Dec. 7 at the University Health Center.
Creating a Zen garden and interacting with it can help to relieve stress, said Big Red Resilience program coordinator Laura Shell.
“Just concentrating at the task at hand can be a meditative practice,” she said. “So it’s something that, while the Zen Room may not be open 24/7, people can take a little of the Zen Room to them.”
Students said the activity helped take the stress of finals off their minds.
Freshman geology major Ivy Marshall said having a Zen garden at home inspired her to attend the event.
“I love playing with it; it’s just so calming,” she said. “So I thought, ‘That’s what I need for right now.’”
Freshman undeclared major Nithya Mudgapalli said she enjoyed the peaceful process of creating her garden as she added colorful designs and the Bob Marley quote, “Don’t worry, be happy” on the side of her box.
“It’s just a really calming activity as of right now,” she said. “Throwing it back and coloring, throwing it back to grade school.”
Mudgapalli said she also liked the Zen Room’s atmosphere.
“This might be a new hangout for me coming back,” she said, “because I didn’t know it existed and it’s really calming and no one is here.”
The project is part of a series of events to promote the Zen space, which included canvas painting the previous week, Shell said.
Although the Zen Room has been open since Big Red Resilience moved into the new University Health Center in August, she said the program is slowly promoting the space and hoping to get more use.
“Meditation has been shown to be really valuable for decreasing stress levels, helping people become more resilient and really focusing on all of the dimensions of their wellbeing,” Shell said. “And so the Zen room is a space where people can come, put everything else away and take some time to meditate in whatever form works for them.”
Shell said she sees increased levels of stress this time of year across campus.
“You can walk into any of our public spaces here on campus and you can just notice people have their noses to the grindstone; they’re really focused,” she said. “This is a stressful time no matter how light a class load might be.”
Shell said while Big Red Resilience hopes to help students manage their stress throughout finals, they are a resource that’s available year-round.
“Our biggest goal is improving mental health and that means reducing the stigma and working on suicide prevention efforts,” she said. “We really want students to know that it is okay to ask for help; it’s okay to seek help before you feel like you need help.”