Encouraging a healthier Concordia: New ‘Wellness Day’ to focus on individual well-being

Old Main, home to Concordia’s Counseling Center on the first floor | David Lindgren

Fall semester ended with a student push for more days off during the semester. After a petition and several faculty senate meetings, Concordia College made changes in favor of more breaks.

On Friday, Feb. 5, we will live through one of those changes. Friday is “Wellness Day” for Concordia. Classes will be reconvened and substituted with “time and space to focus on individual well-being,” according to a campus-wide email sent out on Jan. 31. 

Chad Lystad, an academic counselor at Concordia, is glad the college decided to give students this day dedicated to wellness. He works with many students and sees their burnout first-hand. 

Wellness can be a loaded word. Lystad’s first instinct when talking about wellness is to mention aspects of it: getting enough sleep, exercise, eating well and staying connected. But he thinks wellness is deeper than whatever individual activity it manifests in.

“For me, wellness is doing something in the present to take care of future you,” Lystad said. “Whether that be getting on top of your homework so it doesn’t pile up or getting to bed early.”

Others see wellness as a sensation. Jason Askvig, one of the planners for the Wellness Day, describes wellness as “feeling comfortable with myself and my environment that I can control.” 

Regardless of what wellness means to you, Friday will offer space for students to be well.

Askvig encourages students to check their CPO box on Friday for a voucher for a free beverage at the Twenty Below Coffee location on Eighth Street. This voucher is only valid for Wellness Day. 

“Take the 20 minute round trip walk to Twenty Below as a social opportunity to talk to somebody you maybe don’t get to spend time talking to,” Askvig said.

The day will start with a live mediation session about cultivating compassion for yourself and others at 8 a.m., and end with the same at 5 p.m. These meditations will take place over Zoom. 

There will be many events scattered throughout the day, some in-person and others virtual. Among the in-person events are forest bathing and painting. 

“With nature as the therapist, you will discover how even brief but engaged time spent with the natural world will help you feel a greater sense of calm, a deeper connection with the world around you (and with yourself!), and an enhanced awareness of the beauty in your life,” the Cobbernet post on forest bathing explains.

Joan Vorderbruggen, the leader of the forest bathing exercise during Wellness Day, will guide the 10 registered participants as they metaphorically bathe in the forest. Forest bathing will take place at 1 p.m.

“Paint Your Heart Out” is an event that requires pre-registration. It will take place virtually at 10:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. in-person. This session will explore self-care through creating art, according to the session’s description on Cobbernet. Sister Michelle Walka, the leader of the session, welcomes people of all artistic and creative levels. Once students are registered for the event, they can pick up a painting kit from the Ministry Office.

The virtual events the college has planned for Wellness Day include live Zoom meetings and prerecorded lectures. Both will discuss topics surrounding wellness for college students. 

The first Zoom meeting will be on resiliency in the face of uncertainty at 9:30 a.m. Later, at 1 p.m., the Concordia population is invited to meditate on the topic of developing optimism and agency when dealing with adversity. The last session is at 3 p.m. and will talk about health and wellness for college students. 

There will be various concurrent sessions at 10:45 a.m. and 2 p.m., both with the same content. Topics will range from learning how to meditate using yoga to understanding budgeting.

“I am really excited about yoga and meditation,” Askvig said.

At 3 p.m., Narrative 4 will be hosting an orientation session for a story exchange that will happen at 11 a.m. on Saturday the 6. A story exchange uses “the power of the story exchange to equip and embolden young adults to improve their lives, communities, and the world,” according to their description on Cobbernet.

The day will end with a 7 p.m. slam poetry session by José Joaquin Soto-Moore, a spoken-word artist and National Poetry Slam finalist. Soto-Moore’s work often focuses on the importance of family, self-care and home, according to his profile on Cobbernet. The slam poetry session will take place on Zoom.

Some students do not plan on attending any events the college has to offer, and have instead planned their own day of wellness. 

“I’m going to play Animal Crossing and bake banana bread,” said Greta Leines, a junior political science and environmental studies major.

“I’ll probably use that day for homework, but also stuff I haven’t had time to do. I’m going to buy a new plant,” said Andie Kassenborg, a junior biology and Spanish major.

Ultimately how students choose to spend the day is up to them. Lystad believes that whatever helps your wellness is the best way to spend Friday.

“We hope that students will use this wellness day to take care of the things they need to take care of so they can feel caught up,” Lystad said.

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