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Health

Trojans take a deep breath

by Lillian Insalata
Maddie the therapy dog comforts students during a "ruff" time of the academic year. (USC Photo/Lillian Insalata)
Maddie the therapy dog comforts students during a "ruff" time of the academic year. (USC Photo/Lillian Insalata)

The USC Lyon Center transformed itself from a campus fitness center to a health resort during the Stress Management Fair on April 18. The assortment of heated neck pillows, massages and healthy snacks was part of Pac-12 Well U Week, an annual event sponsored by Recreational Sports.

From April 15-19, both the University Park and Health Sciences campuses hosted numerous events promoting wellness of all kinds. Offerings ranged from free gym access to guided meditation to lectures on smoking cessation, nutrition and sexual health.

At the fair, the focus was on finding ways to alleviate the everyday pressures of being a student or employee. Various booths gave participants the chance to make their own relaxation tools, including stress balls (balloons filled with flour), neck pillows (tube socks filled with rice and scented oils) and homemade cards.

One of the most popular stations featured two furry friends — a golden retriever and Boston terrier — brought by Love on 4 Paws, an animal-assisted therapy organization.

Dogs “can help bring people down from their anxiety,” said Patrick Wise, a volunteer with Love on 4 Paws. “It’s the unconditional nature of their attention and love. There are no bad days with them.”

Several of the other stations had free giveaways for participants. After entering a raffle, attendees could spin a wheel and win prizes such as coupons for Yogurtland, Cold Stone Creamery and other eateries.

For many of the students who attended, the event came at the perfect time of year. Saemy Son, a senior majoring in social sciences (psychology) at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, expressed her appreciation.

“It’s awesome because it’s around a stressful time in students’ lives,” she said. “We’re finishing up everything before finals. Something like this, even though it takes only five minutes, really helps.”

Son’s sentiment reflected the central purpose of Well U Week — the encouragement of taking small steps toward wellness, such as practicing deep breathing, preparing a balanced meal or cuddling with Fido.

“We’re highlighting choices,” said Jennifer Siu, associate director of Recreational Sports. “When we first did this, it was a Well U Challenge, but then we thought, ‘Wellness isn’t a competition! It’s just about being well.’ ”