May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the perfect time to unveil Dean College’s newest addition to campus—The Zen Den!

Located in the Paula M. Rooney Student Center’s lower level in the Keller room (around the corner from the Kokes Fitness Center), the Zen Den is a place where students can come to relax, meditate, play quiet games and just enjoy some calm moments. There are also QR codes within a few of the areas that will connect you to a free meditation app.

In the fast-paced and often stressful environment of college, mental health breaks are not just beneficial, they are essential for students striving to maintain both academic success and emotional well-being. According to a 2023 Gallup poll that surveyed more than 2,400 college students, 66 percent reported experiencing stress and 51 percent reported feelings of worry "during a lot of the day." Emotional stress was among the top reasons students considered dropping out of college.

Mental health breaks—periods set aside to relax, recuperate and disconnect from academic demands—are vital because they help to reduce stress, depression and anxiety. Taking regular breaks has been scientifically proven to increase cognitive function, enhance memory, boost creativity and improve mood.

Practical Ways to Implement Mental Health Breaks

1. Schedule Regular Breaks: Take time to step away from your work and the hustle and bustle. This might mean taking a 5-10 minute break every hour during study sessions.

2. Engage in Physical Activity: Physical activities such as walking, jogging, yoga, dancing or sports are excellent for clearing the mind and relieving stress. Exercise also releases endorphins, which have mood-lifting properties.

3. Pursue a Hobby: Engaging in hobbies and other leisure activities can provide a much-needed break from the routine of study and responsibilities. Whether it's painting, playing a musical instrument, or reading, hobbies provide a sense of accomplishment and joy.

4. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices can help manage stress, improve focus and maintain an overall calm. Come hang out in the Zen Den for some much-needed “me-time.”

5. Connect with Others: Socializing may seem counterintuitive as a break, especially if you’re an introvert, but connecting with friends and sharing the good and bad can be incredibly therapeutic.

6. Seek Professional Help if Needed: Sometimes, taking breaks might not be enough to manage mental health issues. Dean offers confidential counseling services and receiving help can provide you with additional support and strategies.

“Dean College is committed to supporting our students’ mental health needs and this will be a terrific resource for students seeking a brief respite from the demands of college life,” said David Drucker, Associate Vice President, Student Life & Dean of Students. “The Zen Den is one more way in which we are expanding wellness efforts outside the typical parameters of the counseling office. The approach is directed at a broad holistic initiative toward student well-being. We are excited for the community to enjoy this space for years to come.” 

The Zen Den was made possible by donations from the following organizations:

  • KyleCares Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting mental health initiatives in high school and colleges;
  • Active Minds, a student organization committed to creating student wellness projects and programs on campus; and
  • Dean’s Student Government Association.

The Zen Dean will be open 24 hours a day and is accessible with your swipe card. Please limit your visits to one hour and be respectful of others who are using the space. Stop by and start finding your zen today!