With projects, homework and exams in multiple courses, self care can sometimes take a back seat in college students’ schedules.
There are several Lehigh club, organizational and institutional initiatives to help students rest and recharge.
Tika Barua, ‘24, said she found herself with ample time to connect with her spirituality and religion through meditation in 2020.
She said meditative practices helped her be comfortable in silence and be present in the moment.
Hoping to share her meditative journey with the Lehigh community, Barua hosted “Healing with Tika” on March 21 with the Center for Gender Equity.
“The event started with a guided meditation using a Tibetan singing bowl that heals with its frequency,” Barua said. “I wanted to introduce our campus to meditation because I know students’ schedules are packed.”
After the guided meditation, Barua discussed how interpersonal relationships, gender and spirituality impact one’s identity.
Barua said she plans to host more meditation events to provide students with a calming and mindful environment to relax on campus.
Rabbi Steve Nathan, associate chaplain and director of Jewish Student Life, also holds meditation sessions. Any and all community members can join him every Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. in the third floor studio in Taylor Gym.
Nathan said he meditated on and off for years but started studying mindfulness and meditation heavily in the late 90s as it became more popular.
This inspired him to begin a two-year program that included a silent retreat to view mindfulness from a Jewish perspective.
“It is important to be mindful because too much of our world is mindless,” Nathan said. “Our world is so fast-moving, and there is so much going on. I think being able to slow down and be present in the moment without judging is really what mindfulness is about.”
Nathan said meditating for just a couple of minutes each day can have positive effects on a person’s physical and mental wellness.
He said meditation is easy to do on the go and can be achieved with walking, mindful eating, mindful driving or listening to music.
“It all helps a person along the way,” Nathan said. “Just taking time to not focus on things and just relax.”
Nicole Cestone, ‘25, wanted to create a space for students to get their mind off of work and alleviate stress through another form of meditation.
Inspired by the relaxation she felt at campus events, Cestone co-founded the Lehigh Meditative Painting Club in 2022, which was officially recognized in 2023.
She said the club hosts campus events throughout the semester that encourage mindfulness through art, such as origami and tie-dye making.
“We were brainstorming on how to create a space that was inclusive and stress-relieving in a way,” Cestone said. “My friends and I always enjoyed going to ‘Paint Night’ hosted by Lehigh After Dark and were thinking about how we could involve painting with mental health and meditation.”
Cestone said she started to take mindfulness more seriously when she started college, and co-founding the club has improved her mental health, especially at times when she is stressed from schoolwork or exams.
The university is involved in meditation efforts, as well.
Jenna Papaz, director of health advancement and prevention strategies, said in 2021, when Lehigh’s campus was still mostly virtual following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Student Affairs and Peer Health Advisors partnered with Headspace to promote mental health awareness on campus.
According to Headspace’s website, the app intends to reduce stress and help with positive habit building through science-backed meditation and mindfulness tools.
An Office of Student Affairs study found of 408 undergraduate students, 15% of students said they were using Headspace. Among these users, 95% said it had positively impacted their lives, 50% learned to meditate, 54% said it helped them manage their stress, 46% said it improved their sleep and 37% said it increased their focus.
“(Headspace is) creating a space for them to be with their own self, be with their own thoughts and be able to explore a part of them that they might not have explored before,” Papez said.