Feeling stressed? Concordia has a new solution!

The university has opened a Stress Management and Resiliency Training (SMART) Lab on campus that gives Concordians 24-hour access to some awesome tools to help you manage the mental and emotional toll life can sometimes take.

The Lab, which is located next door to the Terrace Room, is open to all CUW students. All it takes is an initial orientation and then you’re at liberty to utilize the space when it suits you. Look at the schedule posted on the door of the SMART lab for scheduled orientation times. If there is not a time scheduled that works for you, contact Beckie Kruse at rebecca.kruse@cuw.edu.

Known as Evelyn’s Place, the SMART Lab space also serves as a fitting homage to former CUW staff member Evelyn Hutchins, who is celebrated for her comforting presence of Christian care. Learn more about Evelyn’s story here.

Continuing Evelyn’s principles, CUW’s new SMART Lab marks yet another development for students’ emotional and mental health on our campus, this time driven by innovative biometric feedback and wellness technology. The benefits of the SMART Lab extend well beyond the time spent here, as it enables valuable skills for mindfulness and intentional living. It’s designed to provide evidence-based tools to help you monitor your stress, become more self aware, and achieve emotional well being.

If you’ve not seen it yet, here are five reasons to check out CUW’s SMART Lab.

1) Heartmath Bio Feedback Technology

These stations in the lab are designed to train for an inner “coherence” that students can build in order to stay calm and composed in all facets of life. They do this by monitoring your heart rate through an ear clip and Heartmath software, providing soothing audio and visual prompts through its padded headphones, and screens. The goal is that over time one can reach a relaxed state with fewer prompts. The computers used purely for this purpose are housed in pods that offer a peaceful privacy. Beckie Kruse, Director of Residence Life and and ardent researcher of the benefits of Heartmath, says that the systems can be used in short periods any time throughout the day to keep up with self-care around your busy schedule.

2) Massage Chairs

The top-of-the-line massage chairs in the SMART Lab are engineered to create full body relief, body awareness, and a deeply mindful and relaxing experience in recovery. More sophisticated than shopping mall massage chairs, the machines feature a full body massage that compresses and kneads the limbs, lower and upper back, and neck.  The SMART lab massage chairs are truly something you have to experience for yourself, so go give it a try.

3) Tactile space

In the corner of the peaceful and serene SMART lab, you can find our tactile space- a good spot to lounge and rest with intention. The space is furnished to be pleasant to the senses, beginning with a specially designed soft carpet to lay on. There are two weighted blankets, which many find the light compression to calm them and put them at ease. Sometimes we need to let go, and fully rest our minds and bodies and this area is an ideal place to do this. Perhaps you find reading to be your go-to for relaxation, or as with everyone, you should take the time to simply not worry about doing anything, just being truly present.

4) Wellness Showcase

You will surely look forward to spending time in the SMART lab, but equally important is how its tools can aid in your wellbeing out of the SMART lab. For this reason, the space also exists as a resource to stay in the loop of health and wellness activities. Various free apps you can download are advertised so that you can use some of these modern tools to achieve mindfulness on the go. Be sure to check out the frequently updated flyers on the designated wall to see what you can attend on campus, from yoga to stress-busting events. The SMART lab is the epicenter of resources for emotional wellness on campus.

And look to the posted scripture verses for encouragement and insight. There is no greater comfort than God’s promise to protect us. On topics such as mindfulness, peace, and living free from doubt, the lab interchanges verses from the Bible to meditate on.

5) Space for Mindfulness Practices

You’ll find that all aspects of the SMART Lab are designed intentionally to be conducive to mindfulness. The lighting, decor, and peaceful quiet yield an environment for you to have the freedom to unwind.

At the end of the day, it’s how you choose to utilize the SMART Lab to benefit the most from the space. You’re encouraged to find what works best for you. Take the opportunity to use individualized practices including the same Heartmath tech as the computers on a portable headset pulse reader, that you can connect via BlueTooth on an app you can download on your cellphone. This allows you to go through the exercises while on the tactile space, or massage chairs. There are also yoga mats in the room that you can use for your own stretching/relaxation routine.

Concordia’s SMART Lab was featured on TMJ4. View the segment here.

— Kai Goldenstein is a student writer and senior year Social Work major, minoring in German

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