We care about your well-being. We care about your success while you're here.

A Place to Find Peace

“Nap here, learn in the classroom.”

This, Brooke McCall joked, is the unofficial tagline of the new Zen Den II in the Bell Memorial Union (BMU). The restful relaxation area, operated by the Wildcat Recreation Center (WREC), boasts four massage chairs, three hammocks, and a strong focus on mental health and wellness.

Stepping into the space feels like sighing in relief, said McCall, WREC program supervisor. Dimly lit by twinkle lights, the room is filled with calming waterfall sounds from a fountain along one wall. The main area has a living room vibe with a sofa, chairs, and coffee table, and a half dozen bean bag chairs that can be positioned wherever desired. The side and back walls of the room have curtained-off areas for the hammocks and massage chairs so guests can relax in private.

Zen Den II is modeled after the original Zen Den in Student Services Center, which was designed by the Counseling and Wellness Center to help students experiencing symptoms of anxiety and panic.

“Students can access the Zen Den on their own … [so] they are capitalizing on their own resilience and learning to manage anxiety without professional help. This, truly, is what we want to promote,” said Juni Banerjee-Stevens, associate director of the center.

According Banerjee-Stevens, sleep deprivation is a huge problem on college campuses—and sleep or relaxation are often the best tools for dealing with anxiety and depression, the most common concerns of students who access counseling centers.

“When I see the students go in [the Zen Den], it occurs to me how few spaces they must have on campus where they can really escape,” she said. “If you are introverted or highly sensitive to stimulation, living in the residence halls can get overwhelming. We really wanted to offer an antidote to those environments.”

WREC staff also recognized the serious consequences for students who are too tired, stressed, or anxious to succeed in the classroom. They set about creating an additional relaxation space to complement the benefits of exercise students can access at the WREC.

“Hopefully there is a trickle down to academic success and retention,” said Curtis Sicheneder, WREC director.

He wants students to know it's okay to disengage sometimes and that Zen Den II is designed for them: “You don't have to be perfect 24/7. This place exists for you. We care about your well-being. We care about your success while you're here.”

“I think that's something, in a general sense, Chico State is really good at—all of campus,” he added. “This is just an extension of that. It's part of our culture.”

Students gather outside the door before Zen Den II opens at 11 a.m., quietly filtering in and finding a place to sit. Some relax, eyes closed in a massage chair, while others scroll through their phones from a hammock or bean-bag chair.

The hope for the dual Zen Dens is to provide not only places to rest but also time and space to recharge and refocus so students and employees can succeed in their study and work.

“I think of how many times a day I close my door for even a few minutes so I can focus on an email or just close my eyes and zone out so I can get back on task,” said Banerjee-Stevens.  “Students don't always have this luxury; I hope the Zen Den gives them that safe space, even for a few minutes.”

The new Zen Den II in BMU 301 is open to students, faculty, and staff Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The original Zen Den in SSC 430 is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Zen Den II provides space for students to relax and recharge between classes.