Articles by Emily Rutherford

The Quarter System

99 percent of the time I love the quarter system. I love the ten week classes, getting to try a number of classes throughout the year, having a break from Thanksgiving to New Years, and starting later in the fall.
 
Every year, though, the end of May is when I get so envious of all my friends on the semester system already done with school. They’re hanging out, sleeping in, and taking time off while I’m studying for finals and am stressed out all the time.

To cope with this, I’ve figured out some tips. 

DePaul
1. I’ve been having “study dates” with my grad school friends, so while they’re studying for big exams or preparing for grad school, I can study for finals. Its different work, but work nonetheless

2. When I need a study break, it’s a perfect time to hang out with my friends already done with school and go out to eat, or have a movie night.

3. I still go to all the events and parties my friends are having, I just don’t stay for too long. I went to a Memorial Day brunch but left after a few hours.

4. I study with friends still in school! I have friends at Northwestern who also have finals in June, and also many friends at DePaul who are anxiously studying as well, so spending time with them forces all of us to stick to the books, even if all we want to do is go to the beach.

Wellness at The Ray

There are few college students today who don’t describe their state as being “stressed out” a lot of the time, especially as DePaul students are wrapping up midterms this week. With this in mind, I wanted to seek out ways the university was helping to combat this problem.

The Ray
Sarah Hardin, Associate Director of Wellness Services and Initiatives at The Ray is part of this initiative in reducing stress. 

Wellness Services focus on the wellness wheel, which includes physical wellness, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, social, intellectual, and financial. DePaul’s goal is to offer resources for all of these, she said.

Each quarter, The Ray Meyer Fitness Center, known to students as The Ray, offers a variety of wellness workshops to go along with different types of wellness. 

This quarter, workshops have included “Eating Healthy on Campus,” “Fuel for your Workout,” a running efficiency clinic, and coming up Thursday May 11, a wellness walk and expo entailing a 1.5 mile walk around campus, raffles, prizes, and information about campus and local wellness resources​

Additionally, every quarter the week before finals, The Ray teams up with other services on campus to provide Brain Fuel Week. During this time, a variety of relaxing events are available for students, like coloring books and massage chairs in the library, make your own aromatherapy bottles, and a “DeStress Through Mindfulness” workshop on June 1.

Wellness
“The Ray is the big resource for stress relief. We are the alternative to stress,” Harding said. She also emphasized that other activities are available at the gym aside from working out, like intramural sports, a variety of fitness classes, DIY arts and crafts workshops to stimulate creativity, and a weekly midweek meditation class.

The midweek meditation is put on by the Office of Religious Diversity every Wednesday at 12:30, and is an opportunity to “take a time out, relax, and focus in on what is important to reduce stress,” she said. “You don't have to love physical activity to come here.”

A lot of individual resources are available on campus as well, like the University Counseling Services. They have a number of counselors available that target different areas, and offer different support groups, like a women’s group, and an anxiety and depression support group.

If you or someone you know is dealing with stress or other psychological distress, reach out the counseling services, or attend one The Ray’s many stress-reduction and wellness workshops. 

Mindfulness and Meditation

At the end of September, I went on a 4 day retreat to Starved Rock for one of my courses - SNC198 Mindfulness and Meditation - and learned more on that retreat than I ever have in my other courses.

Retreat
Now for over 7 years, Dr. Michael Skelley, a professor in DePaul’s School for New Learning, leads a group of 20 students on a mindfulness and meditation retreat to Starved Rock semiannually. For 4 days we participated in meditation practices, group discussions, mindful walking and hiking, reflective journaling, and embracing the power of silence. We were also encouraged to turn our phones off and remain mindful the whole time (and we couldn’t bring homework!)

During the weekend, Skelley discussed types and causes of pain and suffering, invisibility, curiosity, and letting go. And, of course, we practiced meditating, because there really is no wrong way to do it. He says, “I think there are so many myths about meditation that people have heard and so people try to meditate on their own and they end up just getting frustrated or doing themselves more damage than good and so I’m really concerned about trying to correct some of the myths.”

Skelley has been practicing mindfulness from the age of 10 on, but found his interest in Buddhism while earning his PhD in the 1980s. At the time, Insight Meditation Society opened a practice in Massachusetts, and author John Kabat-Zinn developed his mindfulness-based stress reduction program.

The famous Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh​ said, “In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.” This is the foundation of their teachings, and of the retreat as well. It was a really eye opening experience to notice what comes up for us in meditations, and being disconnected from society in general calmed a lot of my anxiety about school, work, deadlines, etc.

Retreat
He mentioned that most of the students who take his class say they’re taking it because they feel stressed in one way or another. Because of this, the 20 of us were able to bond and relate on so many levels even at all different ages, and spending 4 days with them was such a valuable experience. Now all we talk about is how we want to go back!

In reflecting on his own practice, Michael tries to do 30 minutes of formal meditation daily, and takes everyday tasks, such as reading, walking, and cooking, and slows down to do them mindfully. He encouraged us at the end of the retreat to put in place a similar routine, and we are currently following an 8 week meditation book and the meditations it includes. Now, I try to do a 10-20 minute meditation every evening, and it helps me fall asleep because it calms down my built up anxiety from the day.

Everyone should definitely check out this course! It’s available every fall and spring, and it’s one I will never forget!