Normally when someone thinks of group therapy, sitting in big circles and talking about feelings might come to mind. However, international business junior Auroya Wallace got a different experience when she attended the Mavs Wellness Series session Oct. 21.

During these sessions, students can come to the Maverick Activities Center Room 213 every Monday from 3 to 4 p.m. to listen to a short lecture on an aspect of health, walk laps as a group to get moving, learn a few sit-down-only stretches and be led in group meditation.

“Literally, I wasn’t even thinking about anything,” Wallace said. “It was so calming.”

Wallace said that she attended her first meeting because she came with a friend, but she was interested in returning if her schedule allowed it.

“It was really peaceful, and they give you a different perspective,” Wallace said.

The Mavs Wellness Series is an “active learning session” that is open to all students, according to their flyer. Students can attend to explore different aspects of wellness and decrease stress, among other benefits.

The series is led by UTA Health Services employees Catherine Winikates and Juan Higuera-Garcia.

“This series was created out of our desire to bring awareness to our campus about wellness and the benefits that different approaches bring,” Winikates, a licensed psychologist, said in an email.

The series began in September 2019, and the plan is to continue developing it and offering it on an ongoing basis, she said.

The meetings begin with a short meditation that focuses on breathing and relaxation, Winikates said. Then the day’s speaker discusses a wellness-related topic for about 20 to 25 minutes, with different topics being presented every week.

Wallace said that when the group meditated, for her, all the craziness in her mind was gone for a little bit, and she could just focus on her breathing.

The session Wallace attended focused on mental health, balance and how stability can help improve brain function. A roadblock people run into is neglecting one aspect of health in pursuit of another.

“For example, yeah, you’re eating right, you’re exercising, all that. You have [a] good mind-set. But one thing you’re not doing is, like, sleeping,” Wallace said.

Wallace said that the meeting helped her realize that being well-rounded in health is hard to achieve but important to aim for.

After listening to the session’s speaker, the group will move to the MAC’s indoor track. There they will walk laps together with a Rec Sports representative, who also ends the hour with leading the group in some simple stretches, Winikates said.

Computer science junior James Brady said he definitely thinks the program can lead students to good habits, and the session was different from classes he’s used to.

“It’s hard to sit through a long period of getting lectured to,” Brady said. “It’s good to, after the lecture, just to get something that energizes you and to help you keep focused throughout the entire event.”

Similarly, listening to speakers talk on health is something public relations sophomore Isabella Nieves is no stranger to.

Nieves is a Lipscomb Hall RA, or resident assistant, and said that when she and the other RAs received their training, speakers from different resources around campus came to brief them on their respective specialties.

Nieves said she’s glad to see that modern society is pushing for better mental health, but there’s still a long way to go.

“We don’t have those conversations about mental health all the time. It’s getting better, but we don’t always have them,” Nieves said. “And so we think we’re the only ones that are looking for friends or that want that connection.”

Winikates said that the Wellness Series has covered nutrition, concentration, sleep and mental health so far this semester and plans to address healthy relationships and the benefits of exercise in later groups. Topics will rotate as speakers are available.

Nieves said that communication and mental health are extremely important, and she’s glad the wellness series is available for students.

“If you don’t feel okay, like in your mind or in your headspace, then nothing else functions,” she said.

@Sam_Knowles00

features-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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