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Healthy Brain, Healthy Mind works to help participants manage stress, anxiety

U!Shine begins its second year of organizing a mental wellness program, known as Healthy Brain, Healthy Mind and research Assistant for HBHM Samantha Redig said she is passionate about informing students about what HBHM is and how it can help students.

“It is a 5-week program focused on improving emotional well-being, reducing stress and creating coping skills among college students,” Redig said. “HBHM covers the ‘12 Pathways to Better Brain Health,’ learning the difference between healthy and unhealthy stress, understanding the difference between ‘the blues’ and clinical depression and creating a personal strategy for promoting healthy behaviors for your mind and body, among other topics discussed in the sessions.”

Professor of Psychology Tina Winn is the primary organizer of Healthy Brain, Healthy Mind on Oklahoma Christian University’s campus. She said the sessions are once a week for five weeks and each session lasts an hour.

“The first week is an introduction, describing what we are going to do and getting everything set up,” Winn said. “The second session is where we introduce the 12 pathways and talk about some action-oriented things we can do in those areas to support positive mental health. The third week, we get into the real meat of the program, managing anxiety and managing depression. Those are the two big areas people struggle with. The fifth week is a wrap-up of all of the other sessions.”

The program was a joint effort between the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative. Oklahoma Christian was allowed to bring the program as part of the U!Shine initiative on campus, adapting it for college students.

According to Winn, HBHM seeks to bring a positive change to campus. One of the ways the program accomplishes this is by giving participants a 52-week challenge calendar workbook at the first session. Each week, the participants set a goal related to one of the 12 pathways.. HBHM’s hope is that this habit will continue throughout the rest of the year.

Winn said being a college students can be overwhelming and many students have not developed the coping patterns needed to navigate these changes. She said the community at HBHM fosters a positive environment for lasting change.

“You are with other people who are going through the same things,” Winn said. “You get the sense of, ‘I am not in this all by myself’ and ‘I am not the only one who thinks or feels like this.’ It is nice to have this community and support.”

Senior Emmy Oehlert is an assistant researcher for HBHM. She said developing positive mental health habits is essential for everyone, even if you do not think you are struggling with mental health issues.

“It is for everyone,” Oehlert said. “Everyone has stress, and everyone has anxiety. No one is mentally healthy all the time, especially college students. The benefits far outweigh the perceived hassle.”

Winn said the necessity for everyone to be mentally healthy is like going to the gym.

“I talk about it like a wellness program,” Winn said. “People go to the gym for wellness, not everyone who goes has major health problems. They are there, because no matter where they are on the physical spectrum, they want to be better. That is the way this program is. We take the strengths that are there and try and build on them.”

Winn said she hopes to see HBHM incorporated into campus life in the next few years., using it to educate incoming students on how to handle unexpected challenges that college brings. But first, she said she wishes to conduct more research.

“Ideally, it would be a part of an ongoing program,” Winn said. “As a part of being at this university, students would go through this program to help them develop skills early. But first things first, does this work? Does it make the difference we want it to?”

Available session days are Sundays at 7:00 p.m., Mondays at 7:00 p.m., Tuesdays at 4:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m., Wednesdays at 4:00 p.m. and Thursdays at 7:00 p.m. HBHM is Ethos approved, and registration for this semester closes this week. More information can be found here.

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