The zen room, created to relax students and relieve stress. BRIANNA COPPOLA /THE QUADRANGLE
By: Brianna Coppola, Asst. Features Editor
Manhattan College offers a new space for students to take a moment for themselves. The zen room was created by the counseling center to practice relaxation techniques, cope with stress and practice mindful meditation.
The small space with dim lighting sets a peaceful mood. The room reflects its name ‘zen’ which means to be guided by intuition rather than conscious effort, according to Merriam-Webster. In the corner is a comfortable chair with a phototherapy light sitting next to it and some stress balls for students to release tension. Full of warm and peaceful vibes to help relax, the zen room is open to schedule a slot Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Jennifer McArdle, director of the counseling center, put together this environment for students to use whenever they see fit. This space was created nearly a year ago in the spring of 2022, located in Miguel Hall on the fifth floor across from the counseling center.
“It really was received well by students and they were excited about it,” McArdle said. “It’s filling up because people have a need for it”
The zen room has been a popular spot among students to use before and
after classes and during midterms and finals, explained McArdle.
McArdle discussed several benefits of the space that can meet the needs of students. The room offers a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) light that helps students who suffer from depression, particularly in the winter months.
“They can reserve the zen room and use the light therapy for like 15 minutes, which can help depression during the darker times of the year,” McArdle said. “And then we have sound therapy like the ocean and rain falling.”
McArdle described how influential the zen room was to students, especially after COVID-19 and the lockdown.
The counseling center also emphasized the privacy and respect of their students and ensured that their needs will be met.
“We’ve noticed that a lot of students since they came back from lockdown, you know of COVID, that a lot of them had therapists online,” McArdle said. “They continue to work with and do well with, but they need the privacy to meet with them virtually. So, a lot of students reserved that room so they can meet with their therapists virtually and then we have a sound machine outside that protects their privacy.”
The zen room, created to relax students and relieve stress, has benefited students all around campus. It gives students the opportunity to take a moment for themselves, to better and strengthen their mental and physical health.
McArdle discussed the possibility of creating another space that is similar so that more students can use and have access to. Aside from the zen room, McArdle recommended some other ways for students to relax.
“Van Cortlandt Park is beautiful, it’s safe and it’s a nice place to just go and walk the track or go through some of the trails,” McArdle said. “Look at Fieldston. It’s just beautiful to just grab your headphones or not, and just go through so much beautiful nature.”
McArdle was particularly excited about one location, where she hopes students take advantage of it.
“There’s another place that I think a lot of people don’t know about but it’s called Wave Hill and it’s a walking distance from here and it’s absolutely gorgeous, with river views,” McArdle said. “And you know students can go and there’s a student discount. I think Wednesday’s are free and it costs $10 to go but if you show a student ID, it might be $3. So there’s a lot of places that you could just go and walk around here.”
McArdle discussed how focusing on your mental health and taking moments for yourself is important, just like how we take care physically such as going to the doctor and getting checkups.
“You have to just say I need to unplug. I need to take a break. I need to do something really good for myself,” McArdle said. “Because if not, we just go go go and that causes stress, anxiety and burn out, and then that can even lead to depression.”
MC students around campus have used this space several times and have spoken about how it’s impacted them and helped them mentally and physically. However, there are some students who have not heard of the zen room, but described their favorite ways to take time and reflect.
Zachery Scwhab, a senior at MC, has never heard of the zen room but still finds ways to relax and be in the moment.
“I mean during finals and such because mental health is really important during those
times to take care of yourself,” Schwab said. “Really just take a moment to step away from everything. I know what I do is usually if there’s really stressful work, I’ll just take like a 15 minute break. I’ll go listen to some music that I really enjoy. Go for a walk and that’ll help me destress during those really stressful times.”
Elizabeth Manzoni, a senior at MC explains some ways she takes moments for herself during stressful times.
“I like to talk to my friends and my family usually around midterms or finals to calm myself down,” Manzoni said. “I’ll also take walks around the Quad, so that’s very relaxing to me.”
Whether it be using the zen room, listening to music or taking a walk, it’s important for students to be able to relax and just breathe for a second. Learning to step away from a busy life and take a moment to become recentered can improve mental health.
The counseling center at MC is always available to help students talk or to relax in privacy. The center is located in Miguel Hall on the fifth floor in room 501. Students can call to make an appointment at (718) 862-7394 or (718) 862-7292 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is on the MC website and the announcements page, where they post everyday for updates.