iPause program helps students be proactive about stress management, mental health


Mary Mitchell

The iPause program is part of University Recreation and Wellbeing. They hope to help students be proactive about stress management.

A new mental health initiative has been at the forefront of University Recreation and Well-Being (Rec Well). Rolled out last spring, iPause — a stress management program — shows students how to be proactive about their mental health through workshops. 

Students can sign up for workshops through the iPause program that will teach them about the good and bad types of stress, as well as how to manage those feelings in a positive way. 

“It is really just a program focused on managing stress, through mindfulness,” said Health and Wellness Coordinator Cortney Heileman. “So throughout the workshop, there are a couple different exercises that the participants can go through, and there are just ways that students can learn how to best manage the stress while they’re in the midst of experiencing the stress, and relieve their body and their mind a little bit and kind of help them recenter and refocus. That way they can continue to move past it in a really positive way and not let the stress wear them down and really take over their life for that moment.” 

These workshops will be student led so participants can learn from their peers and their experiences. According to Dr. David Schwartz, director of the Counseling Center, peer-led models are really successful in mental health exercises due to their collaborative nature and shared experiences. Peer wellness ambassadors, paid and certified employees of Rec Well, will facilitate these workshops and guide fellow students through meditation and learning. 

“I think it’s really important for us as students to be able to reach out to other students on their level,” said Ally Manor, lead peer educator and wellness ambassador. “Obviously the faculty and staff really care about us, and Cortney’s been really amazing about driving home that our mental health as employees is important, but I think it hits closer to home when it’s someone like me reaching out to them because I am closer to the experiences they’re going through.”

iPause began in March, the same week the campus shut down to COVID-19, stopping the workshops before they really took off. During the quarantine and for the upcoming semester these workshops have been recreated in a virtual format — both live and prerecorded. 

“They’re really interactive, and it’s nice because the program takes you through a progression of understanding the basics of stress — how our bodies and our minds react to stress, the good and the bad types of stress that we might encounter in life and how we can best deal with that in our own personal way,” Heileman said. “So we dive into how every single person can find their perfect way of managing the stress that they might encounter.”

The Counseling Center and Rec Well staff saw a need for a preventative mental health program to alleviate some of the demand for treatment as numbers continued to rise.

“The program is about 45 to 50 minutes long, and there’s a survey that we have students take in the beginning and the end just so that we can assess their learning — and to see what kind of key takeaways they’ve had from the program.” Heileman said.

If students want to sign up for a workshop, they can visit the iPause page on the Oakland website. To get involved, students can contact Heileman directly or through Handshake. 

“We do have some openings right now actually. It’s something that they would just apply like any other job and then we’d go from there with a formal meeting and interview and whatnot so it’s a fairly simple process to get the ball rolling.” Heileman said.