Relaxation Room @ Penn’s Biomedical Library

Penn is committed to the heath and well-being of all students, faculty and staff. Dr. Dubé is the University of Pennsylvania’s inaugural Chief Wellness Officer. The Wellness at Penn website provides eight categories of wellness:

Adapted from the Wellness Wheel of SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services)
https://www.wellnessatpenn.com/

On April 25, 2019, Amanpreet (Aman) Kaur, Community Health and Engineering Librarian at the Biomedical Library, and her team’s idea of “Weekly Themed Walks” was selected as one of the finalists for Penn Wellness’ Big Pitch event, which invited students, staff and faculty to pitch their ideas for innovative wellness programming for the community.

Aman has also developed the Relaxation Room at the Biomedical Library:

Relaxation Room by Amanpreet Kaur
Penn Libraries

On May 30th, Aman provided us with a tour of the Relaxation Room in support of the Sow, Nurture and Grow: Cultivate Your Purpose theme of this year’s SALT (Student Affairs Leadership Team) conference at Penn:

  • There are spaces for physical, intellectual and spiritual relaxation, including yoga mats, chair yoga and prayer mat.
  • There are spaces for drawing, coloring, sensorial manipulatives, puzzles and even an Operation game!
  • There are relaxing sounds stations where you can scan QR codes with your cellular device and listen with a headphone.
  • There is an adjacent room that can be accessed for more interactional activities.

And, of course, get some studying and research done before or after your relaxation, as the Biomedical Library continues to be a great Study Spot at Penn!

For more information about the Biomedical Library, also see our prior blog: Study Spots: Biomed Library.

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor, Weingarten Learning Resources Center.

Wellness: How-To’s! (Staying Unplugged Part 2)

In the last post of this two part series, we considered why unplugging from our phones is important to destress, become more productive, and connect with the people around us. But is unplugging really even possible? Phones have become a ubiquitous part of life in 2019, and in many ways have made life easier. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my phone, and neither would you, possibly (I am thinking about myself and many of our students who got lost while trying to find the Weingarten LRC).

In my last entry, I suggested some simple alternatives to picking up your phone, like taking a deep breath or giving a friend a quick hug. I hope that if you tried them, you felt more connected or relaxed, even if it was only for a moment. My wish is that the more you make unplugging from your phone a habitual practice, the more peace will enter your day, causing you to actually want and need a phone-free space in your life. This is a lot easier said than done, however. Like I tell myself and many of our students, keep trying. Very few things that are worth it feel effortless the first time.

Here are some ideas to help you reduce your daily phone usage:

  • Available for both iPhone and Android, the highly-rated forest app plants an actual forest on your phone’s main screen. Help your forest grow by staying off your phone!
  • If using an app on your phone to stay off your phone sounds too meta, consider asking a friend or partner to join you in your goals. Set a phone free time when you are together and stick to it!
  • Finally, you may wish to consider throwing your phone into the Schuylkill! That’s a joke, but keeping it in a drawer or elsewhere out of site or (gasp) not bringing it with you on your trip to WaWa can help. I’d recommend a cool, dry place.

I hope you enjoyed this two-part series on unplugging from your phone, and good luck!

By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow & Instructor

Wellness: Why You Should Unplug (Staying Unplugged Part 1)

Crossing Locust Walk during peak hours can be a risky venture. Twice yesterday, I narrowly missed crashing into students on their way to class, their eyes too fixated by whatever was happening on their phones to notice. It’s easy to judge, but I’m sure I too have been guilty of this unsavory behavior. Although body-slamming another student on Locust Walk would be extremely unpleasant, if we were crossing the street or driving there could have been far worse consequences.

We all know that smartphone use has become an epidemic. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, 26% of Americans go online almost constantly. No pun intended, given that another statistic I found online claimed that 40% of people check their phones on the bathroom. For busy students, phone overuse can be a barrier to productivity and focus, or even cause feelings of anxiety as we compare ourselves to photos of our seemingly happy and healthy friends on social media, outside having fun on a sunny day while we are trapped in the basement of Van Pelt.

The next time you reach for your phone (I am guessing it is at some point as you read this short article), consider the following alternatives:

  • Take a few deep breaths and a moment to check in with yourself today.
  • Stop by to say hello to a coworker or give a friend a hug.
  • Get up and walk around for a few minutes.
  • Go get a healthy snack or a drink.
  • Listen to your favorite song (or try a new dance move, no judging!).

My challenge for you today is to try 2-3 of these strategies. You may find it’s harder than you think. I’ll be back with part two of this series, where we’ll explore strategies to help you unplug from your phone.

By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow & Instructor

Wellness: James G. Kaskey Memorial Park, The Biopond and Biology Greenhouses

Biopond @ James G. Kaskey Memorial Park

The James G. Kaskey Memorial Park is a fitting tribute to the first day of Spring, an unassuming nature oasis tucked away within Penn’s urban campus.

“This green space which we call today the James G. Kaskey Memorial Park, or BioPond, was created during the last decade of the nineteenth century, opening as a research garden in 1897. Although the idea for a garden on University of Pennsylvania campus was first presented by Dr. J.T. Rothrock, then chair of the Department of Botany, it was Professor of Botany, Dr. John M. MacFarlane who finally convinced the Biological Department of the special advantages to be gained by reclaiming the waste ground which surrounded the department. Although the area was a scant five acres, generally considered far too small a space for a Botanical Garden, Professor MacFarlane did succeed in transforming waste hills and hollows of sand and gravel into a garden which fulfilled not only the botanical research needs of members of the department, but was also a graceful addition to the University landscape” (Penn Arts & Sciences).

Over the years, it has been renovated (dredged, relined and realigned) for maintenance and sustainability; however, it has lost some of its original acreage due to campus development around it. Nonetheless, it still stands today as a campus treasure.

If you like the outdoors, there are benches and a few picnic tables where you can take in the sun and read/study. I prefer to go for a nice walk when I need a break from my work, and especially pack my lunch there where I can eat al fresco. You will delight in some of the live species that inhabit the pond, such as fish and turtles, if you observe carefully. Now is the best time to enjoy it, before it gets too hot to be outside in the Summer. But crisp Fall-Winter walks are also unexpectedly enjoyable.

As you set out to walk and meander through the paths, cross over bridges or perch on a bench upon which to find a point of rest, consider an analogy to your academic journey:

  • Which paths have your consciously and unconsciously taken thus far?
    • What have they revealed?
    • What have you learned?
  • What experiences, wins and apparent defeats have served as bridges to where you have arrived or hope to arrive?
    • Who or what has kept you connected and/or motivated?
    • What connections have you made?
    • How have you made sense of your experiences?
  • Where have you found rest and support?
    • What is the value of pause and reflection?
    • How do we plan for and schedule rest points in our schedule, in our paths?
    • How will you support others?

Next time you take a study break or seek an outdoors green space for studying, consider the opportunities that the Kaskey Memorial Park, including the biopond and greenhouses, offer for self-reflection, self-assessment, self-nurture and growth.

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow

Wellness: Mindfulness at ICA Museum

Welcome Back from Spring Break, PENN Students! Have you considered how you will practice self-care and prioritize your wellness for the rest of the semester? Consider attending the Mindfulness at the Museum Series at PENN’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA):

“Mindfulness at the Museum is a series of drop-in sessions focused on helping our wider community—inside and outside of the museum—to have access to tools to become more aware. Mindfulness meditation can help us to develop healthier minds and bodies, reduce stress, foster compassion, and increase our memory skills, among many other studied benefits. Participants may discover that this appreciation of the “here and now” extends outside the museum” (Mindfulness Program Series at UPENN-ICA).

  • These free drop-in sessions are open to all. No special clothing is required. Space is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. No prior meditation experience is necessary.
Mindfulness at the Museum

While attending a public Mindfulness program series is not necessary, and you can just as meaningfully practice within the privacy of your own space and in the moments afforded in-between, there is so much support and joy in practicing mindfulness in community.

Also, an aesthetically stimulating, yet peaceful space such as the ICA Museum plays an important role in helping us connect to our sensorial system. Awakening our senses and re-connecting to our inner being and the world through them is an essential part of well-being.

SPRING 2019 SCHEDULE (Register HERE):

Mar 8, 2019, 12PM

  • Mindfulness at the Museum with Hariprasad Kowtha

Mar 15, 2019, 12PM

  • Mindfulness at the Museum with Sandi Herman

Mar 22, 2019, 12PM

  • Mindfulness at the Museum with Kate Johnson

Mar 29, 2019, 12PM

  • Mindfulness at the Museum with Shesheena Bray

Take a study break and practice self-care through

Mindfulness at the Museum!

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow

Reflection & Wellness: Mindful Attachment, Detachment, Centering & Focus

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We live in a modern world, which in many ways hyper-stimulates our senses through technology and high-speed connectivity. What are the wellness implications of our new norm: 24×7 data availability, data connectivity and data sharing?

It’s no wonder that we are over-committed, restless and unrested, and fatigued. We call it brain fog, when processing-demand surpasses our own body’s limits. Limits, what a concept, huh? We push and push ourselves, expecting to produce continued, increased and optimal output, like a machine.

In the Academy, our students report increased difficulty focusing, prioritizing and making decisions. They experience stress, anxiety and social isolation. In addition to seeking professional counseling and support (e.g. Penn CAPS, Penn Advisor, etc.) when needed, we can also develop and refine some metacognitive wellness practices to help us pause, center ourselves, and focus on what is important. Consider the practice of attachment, detachment, centering and focus:

Identify Your Attachments
  1. Become aware of your attachments. The things that we’re attached to tend to trigger a physical, emotional and/or psychological reaction in us. Is it family? friends? school work? professional obligations? the causes to which you’re committed? We pour all of our energy into external activities, commitments and triggers, herein, our attachments.
Practice Detachment
  1. Practice detachment. Once you identify your attachments, practice noting and letting go. If you can’t let it go, then set it aside momentarily. That from which we cannot let go has power over us. Practice ambivalence. It does not mean that you do not care anymore, it does mean that you put a distance between you and the trigger, so that you can behold it from a distance and with reason, without it enveloping you. What can you control, and what does it make sense to acknowledge as ultimately outside your sphere of influence?
Focus on What Matters Most
  1. Re-center and focus on what truly matters to you the most. What is most important to you? What is essential to your wellness? What feeds your inner being? Who is in your love circle? Who is in your support network? When you re-center yourself and start focusing on internal growth factors, a.k.a. healthy attachments, you will start restoring, recharging and fostering healthy energy, rather than seeing your energy sipping away in a myriad of activities, obligations and conflicts.

The process of attachment, detachment, centering and focus is not a one-time task. It is not an esoteric state of being; it is not an arrival. It is an active, daily practice, which is part of an intentional and iterative process. By practicing this process mindfully, and returning to it over and over again, you can develop a healthier and more sustainable wellness state of mind. This will support your studies and personal and professional life. Modern life has a way to pull you away from your center, from your true mission, towards sources of hyper-stimulation, which can often be triggering and draining. Close your eyes, breathe, and practice returning to center, over and over again. Resist, channel and flourish.

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow

 

Reflection: What I Have Learned from Weingarten Students

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A Learning Fellow’s Reflection:
What I Have Learned from Weingarten Students

Returning to student life this Fall after over a decade was a humbling experience for me. Although I reveled in all of the opportunities and resources on Campus and the intellectual stimulation of my classes, I also came close to tears trying to figure out the EZ-Borrow system for a book I needed, and ruined my favorite pair of shoes trudging through a flooded walkway because it was the only way I knew how to get to class.

Although I began my position as a Weingarten Learning Fellow (one of several doctoral students in the Graduate School of Education who works as a Learning Instructor) with learning strategies based on my own academic training and life experiences, I soon realized how much I take away from students. I continually find our one-on-one sessions and workshops an opportunity to find out about new tech tools and resources on Campus, talk through different exam preparation and writing strategies, and about a million other things!

Coming from a 9-5 office-type schedule, I originally had a tendency to try and study for five or six hours at once, without taking more than a 15-20 minute break to scarf down my lunch or make a phone call.

One thing I have learned from being able to work with so many students on their own schedules is the importance of taking meaningful breaks throughout the day, whether it’s lunch with a friend, going to the gym, or taking part in a club or activity that you enjoy.

I am proud to say that I now work for only two or three hours at a time, and then enjoy a long walk with my dog or a mindful lunch break where I actually sit computer and phone free to enjoy my food. I also try to embrace the student mindset of continuous learning and reflection, and I gain courage from so many of our resilient students who bounce back from failure and are willing to try again.

By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow