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The war on stress: Wellness Center introduces new support groups

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Illustration by Valentin Nguyen

Ever been stressed? Stress can stem from anything, from the college application process to social pressures and expectations to challenging classes and time-consuming extracurriculars. Last semester, the Wellness Center started several support groups intending to help Lowell students deal with a range of different experiences.

Although the Wellness Center offered individual counseling, the high influx of stressed seniors during the spring semester of last year caused them to create the Senior Transition Group. The group was designed to help alleviate seniors’ stress about college life, acceptances and rejections from college, and leaving their families, according to Wellness Center counselor Ashley Hamilton.

“My hope is that they will walk away from the group with more self understanding about what they want to get from college, or what direction they want to go in after high school.”

The Senior Transition Group was held on Tuesdays during Block 7 last semester. Each week, Hamilton and Wellness Center intern Tiffany Lam selected and discussed themes related to college and personal plans after high school.

The group supported students emotionally, helping them find their inner resources to help them deal with the transition to college or other pursuits. “Inner resources are like values, or characteristics, your strengths, and then also lifestyle practices like self care that you can remind yourself to use when times get challenging or you get thrown off what’s familiar,” Hamilton said.

Around five to nine people attended the group every week. The amount of students attending fluctuated due to different stressful times during the college application and acceptance process, according to Hamilton. “It’s kind of a roller coaster during senior year because you’re applying to schools and there’s so much unknown and anticipation and worry,” she said.

Hamilton gave the seniors lots of information about college, but she hopes that she gave them more. “My hope is that they will walk away from the group with more self understanding about what they want to get from college, or what direction they want to go in after high school,” Hamilton said. The group may start up again during the spring semester.

Besides the new senior transition group, the Wellness Center has introduced other groups relevant to today’s youth while also focusing on specific issues most Lowell students face. In order to create these groups, the Wellness Center counselors tried to look for commonalities in issues that students were having when they held individual appointments with them. When they found patterns in the challenges or questions students brought up in the appointments, they tried to make groups to fit those needs to hopefully help those students or others struggling with something similar, according Student Intervention Team intern Erica Edwards.

The Wellness Center started the Academic Stress Group because they saw so many students stressed out by Lowell’s academic rigor and couldn’t see them all individually with the limited Wellness Center staff, counselor Amber Wilson said.

This group was run by Wilson, and Wellness Center intern Tiffany Lam. It discussed effective and ineffective stress management, time management, issues about self perception and stressors. Wilson found that students were frequently stressed about upcoming tests and overloaded schedules in and out of school. The group members shared their own de-stressing techniques and how they personally manage stress. “We did a lot of brainstorming… it could be anything from closing your eyes and envisioning, taking deep breaths, or going on a walk or going on a run,” Wilson said. The group is not going on currently, and it’s undecided if it will continue next semester.

“I think it’s important for students to see that they are not alone.”

Along with groups more focused on managing stress, the Wellness Center started empowerment groups such as Q Group and Ladies Lunch. Q Group was designed to support, educate and empower LGBTQ students at Lowell. It began last semester and ran for eight weeks, led by community health outreach worker Sarah Cargill and former SIT intern Hung Dinh. The goal was to help students process experiences that are specific and relevant to LGBTQ people with other LGBTQ students in a confidential and therapeutic setting. They talked about a wide range of topics including the coming out process, accessing health care as a LGBTQ person, confronting LGBTQ oppression, and queer dating. Cargill plans to expand the group to last 12–15 weeks during the spring semester as it is not likely to be offered this semester.

Cargill hopes that the group will build community for LGBTQ kids at Lowell. “I think it’s important for students to see that they are not alone,” Cargill said. “A lot of the things that they are experiencing or having issue with or going through are things that are shared amongst their peers.”

The Wellness Center employed a thoughtful and sensitive method for approaching students to participate in Q Group in an effort to prioritize the safety and privacy of participants, according to Cargill. Last semester the group was relatively small, and Cargill and the Wellness staff hope to expand their group next semester to better meet the needs of Lowell’s LGBTQ population.

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The other empowerment group, Ladies Lunch, is focused on empowering girls at Lowell. Edwards started the group last spring. “[Ladies Lunch gives] girls a safe space to talk about some of the issues that they may have around dating and certain pressures that they feel from society,” Edwards said. The group aims to help girls connect and build trust by confiding in each other. “I like how everyone is open and everything, they don’t judge us, and we’re comfortable to talk about anything we want,” freshman Eva Oskaian said. It gives them the opportunity to find similarities in their struggles and experiences in the isolating climate that Lowell can be, according to Edwards.

Ladies Lunch is open to everyone during fifth and sixth block on Fridays this year, starting on Sept. 22.

Edwards, who is a trained yoga instructor, also runs a Stress Management Mindful Movement Group in Room 110. Whereas the Academic Stress Group aims to help students balance their academics, this group focuses on encouraging mindfulness and meditation in Lowell students’ hectic lives. Edwards noticed that students were showing symptoms of anxiety such as headaches, increased heart rate and panic attacks. Symptoms of anxiety can be reduced with yoga and mindfulness activities, according to Edwards. “When we connect with our body, when we slow our heart rate down, and take some really deep breaths we are able to calm our nervous system, regulate our breath and find a little bit of emotional stillness,” Edwards said. In the group, they pair this technique with mindful listening exercises and journaling.

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The war on stress: Wellness Center introduces new support groups