Pacific’s Approach to Virtual Wellness

The Pacifican

By: Angel Zhong, Chelsea Igtanloc

Like countless other institutions of higher education across the United States, Pacific has had to temporarily halt in person classes this semester to protect the health of its students, staff, and faculty. Alongside classes, events, and extracurricular activities, wellness programming is one of the many sectors of campus life that have experienced a substantial transition this fall. Going from providing in-person to remote services within a matter of months is no socially-distanced walk in the park, but Pacific’s numerous wellness programs have thus far proven that they are sufficiently up for the task.

In terms of physical wellbeing, Baun and Pacific Recreation have quickly and effectively adapted their programming to the virtual environment. Group fitness classes such as Zumba and Barre are now happening regularly via Zoom which, according to Amber Kavehkar, Pacific’s Wellness Coach and Assistant Director of Recreation, have allowed more flexibility for many regarding their day-to-day scheduling. Moreover, while a considerable number of attendees in said classes often opt for the “video-off” option in Zoom, their sense of community and social accountability haven’t diminished. Amber Mateer, a Graduate Assistant of Competitive Sports, has encountered a similar degree of success with programs such as Wellness Warrior, a monthly series for officers of sports clubs to learn about the various facets of wellness (e.g. social wellness, emotional wellness, etc.) in a collaborative and interactive setting.

Charlotte Felix, the University Dietician, has also seen firsthand the positive student responses to Pacific’s new virtual wellness programs: “I think more people have been able to take advantage of the [campus wellness resources] as long as they know that it’s available because of this transition.” Being able to contact a campus health professional through phone or Zoom suits the hectic and time-deficient student lifestyle undeniably well, and this has been reflected by the uptick in students reaching out to wellness resources like Charlotte. Finding new ways to connect with students has been integral to ensuring that these resources are accessible, as plenty of students aren’t cognizant of what their wellness fee fully covers and/or entails. On Instagram, Charlotte has a monthly Q&A as part of the collaborative InstaHealth series hosted by ASUOP and Tiger Health to facilitate more direct student engagement with Pacific’s wellness programming. Students can come into the Instagram Live with questions about their diet and, more broadly, health and wellness in general.

Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL) has been adapting to this brave new world by moving a number of their regular services and events to Zoom, and also by creating self-guided retreat packets for students to do at a time which best fits their schedule; the weekly meditation group that took place in the Chapel pre-pandemic is now a daily practice known as “Pacific Pause,” and the morning prayer service is presently an afternoon one, occurring at 4:45 pm every day. Participants are able to share their joys and concerns with one another in a religiously and spiritually inclusive communal space. Rev. Laura Steed, the Multifaith Chaplain and Director of Religious and Spiritual Life, stresses the importance of meeting students where they are and creating opportunities for intentional and uplifting connection: “We are still very much craving that [human] connection, and because life is really heavy right now we have adapted some of our regular meetings to be lighter with more time for community building and support”.

Dr. Carla Strickland-Hughes, a psychology professor and avid participant in Baun’s virtual fitness classes, is an enthusiastic proponent of emphasizing wellness and self-care early in life. As a specialist in aging and cognition, she highlights the importance of curbing the “eventualities” many have come to associate with growing old — cognitive decline, loss of mobility, numbed senses — by building beneficial habits while young — the two most vital being regular aerobic exercise and social engagement. Additionally, Juliana Vargas and Allegra Rocha, student officers in Active Minds, an RSO dedicated to destigmatizing the conversation around mental health, are also passionate advocates of self-compassion. They work with CAPS to inform students about the assortment of wellness services and resources available at Pacific. The importance of wellness has not been corroded by this vast transition from in-person to online interactions, which seems to indicate that the benefits from these virtual resources may outlast the pandemic.

Telehealth was an emerging development in the fields of medicine and wellness long before the COVID-19 era. However, many refrained from trying it due to doubts about its effectiveness. Thus, if there is a silver lining to be gleaned from the pandemic, it would be that it enabled telehealth to prove its efficacy to a number of skeptics. On college campuses, as illustrated by Pacific’s own virtual wellness programming, telehealth can have longevity beyond COVID-19 as a convenient and time-efficient resource for students, staff, and faculty whose schedules don’t often accommodate the time needed for an in-person appointment.

Resources:

@Pacific_RS_Life

https://pacificrec.pacific.edu/

https://2020recreationmovement.com/

Wellness Coach: akavehkar@pacific.edu

Dietician: cfelix@pacific.edu