Oct. 23, 2017Vol. 48, Issue 2

The Power of Stillness

New Wellness Schedule at the WREC Emphasizes Rest for a Healthy Mind

Student Mara Johnson (center) and others take advantage of the WREC’s nap class, relaxing and improving their wellness one snooze at a time.

I had a hectic day, running from meeting to meeting, and trying to squeeze in some work time at my desk to at least check one thing off my to-do list, but there was one appointment on my calendar I was looking forward to: Nap Class.

I entered the group exercise room on the second floor of the Wildcat Recreation Center (WREC) unsure what to expect. The sound of the treadmills and barbells faded away as the door closed behind me, replaced by quiet chatter in the room. A staff member welcomed me and showed me to an equipment room to pick out the napping essentials: a yoga mat, bolster pillow, a blanket, and dark-colored towel that serves as an eye mask.

Moving to the center of the room, I mimicked the setup of the student next to me and got comfortable, propping the fat round pillow under my knees and blanket under my head to serve as a pillow, and finally, covering my eyes and shutting out the filtered natural light from the exterior windows. Calming music infused with the sound of ocean waves began playing from a speaker as the instructor, Wildcat Recreation Center (WREC) Program Supervisor Brooke McCall, readied us for relaxation, “Start with taking deep breaths in through your nose, pause, and exhale out through your mouth.”

If you’ve ever tried guided meditation or experienced the end of a yoga class, you’re familiar with how it goes from there—relaxing your body to feel its heaviness sink into the mat, concentrating on calm, even breaths, and letting thoughts come and go.

“Focus on the breath or the beating of the heart—something that is a constant and coming from within,” said McCall. “Allow thoughts to come and go instead of trying to shut them out. Allow them to float through. Acknowledge them and let them pass.”

“People have different ways of coping with stress, and we are trying to find as many positive and health-conscious ways of dealing with it as we can,” said Brooke McCall, program supervisor for the Wildcat Recreation Center.

New this semester, Nap Class is a 30-minute session designed to give participants an opportunity to relax, unwind, and, of course, sleep. It’s part of the WREC’s new Wellness Schedule that aims to combat the stress and anxiety that have become commonplace in the campus community.

“It’s becoming more and more apparent that students, staff, and faculty are struggling with anxiety and stress levels,” said McCall. “We consider it part of our jobs here as a recreation facility to give folks the tools to deal with [them]. While exercise plays a huge role in that, sleep and general relaxation play just as big of a role. So, we wanted to give folks permission and opportunity to check out.”

Floating away into that relaxation mindset was a little difficult for my overactive mind at first—Did I reply to that email? Am I prepared for the meeting after this? What should I make for dinner?—but the longer I lay there in the dark, comfortable with soothing music filling my ears, the easier it became to let go.

And that’s really what it’s all about, according to McCall.

“The psychological benefits and the health benefits of just taking 20-30 minutes out of your day and pausing are just as beneficial as if you’d fallen asleep. So it’s really just about giving your body permission to stop. Giving your mind permission to float and not focus on a task.”

Nap Class is an extension of other WREC efforts that follow the lead of the Counseling and Wellness Center to provide restful spaces for students to recharge. Other offerings include its longstanding De-Stress Fest programming the week before finals each semester (December 4–8 this fall), opening Zen Den II in the Bell Memorial Union last year, and other events throughout the semester such as free chair massages or therapy dog visits.

“We’re having a great response to these programs. … Folks are asking for more. They’re asking for more programming. They want more yoga, they want meditation, and Nap Class just comes on the heels of that. We’re just trying to listen to the pulse of what the community needs and what is going to contribute to academic success,” McCall explained.

“The more we get the word out, we’re hoping these ideas spread,” McCall said of the WREC’s wellness programming.

“The more we get the word out, we’re hoping these ideas spread,” McCall said of the WREC’s wellness programming.

Giving students the tools and opportunities remove potential barriers to success in the classroom like sleep deprivation and stress is what prompted the new Wellness Schedule. In addition to Nap Class, it includes the WREC’s yoga programming which has basic yoga, standup paddleboard yoga, and slow-paced and meditative restorative yoga in the evenings to help unwind from a hectic day.

After about 20 minutes, McCall gently called on us to begin waking up, hugging our knees to our chest and drawing circles on the ceiling, repositioning to our sides, and then, slowly, in our own time returning to a sitting position.

With slow blinks and a few yawns, the class began to break up, marveling at how refreshed they felt.

“What an amazing energy,” said one student.

“I felt like I was floating away,” said another. “I kept forgetting where I was.”

“I was out!” exclaimed a third.

Though true sleep was elusive for me, I, too, felt relaxed and refreshed, marveling at the power of simply sitting still. I plan to return for another rest sometime soon, as does graduate student Katie Salcido, a staff member in the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office, whose first experience was so great, she set a goal to attend twice a week as her schedule allows.

“I’m not a big napper, but, between work, school, and training, it seemed like a way to just turn things off mid-day to collect myself and focus on nothing demanding,” she said. “What I got out of this experience was that taking time for just me mid-day pays dividends.”


Ready for a rest? Nap Class is open to all WREC members and takes place daily, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 12:30–1 p.m., and Tuesday and Thursday 2:30–3 p.m. Visit the WREC for the complete Wellness Schedule.

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CalFresh Day, a half-ton of fresh produce was given to students and a large canned food donation was made to the Wildcat Pantry.

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During CalFresh Day, a half-ton of fresh produce was given to students along with an enormous canned food donation to the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry!      Watch video