Annual Destress Fest Goes Virtual

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Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N) is holding its first Virtual Destress Fest with the theme “At the Boardwalk.” Through May 13, students can participate in an array of stress-reducing activities from their homes. Typically an in-person event held before and during final exams, this year’s Destress Fest is being held virtually due to the current social distancing orders stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. All students have access to the free activities streamed to Instagram Live and IGTV. The first Virtual Destress Fest was so successful that the RU-N Office of Community Standards will launch its first-ever summer Destress Fest, which will also be virtual.

More than 1,200 individuals have participated so far in activities which include video game tournaments, meditation sessions, scavenger hunts, virtual cooking and painting classes, and Drag Queen Story Hour sponsored by the Health Promotion Division, Athletics & Recreation, Community Standards, LGBTQ Student Services, the Counseling Center and the RU-N Honor Council. During the kickoff week of April 20 alone, about 100 students participated in the Kickoff Party hosted on Instagram Live by the Destress Fest Program Board. Over 1,700 accounts were reached on social media via the Community Standards Instagram page, which hosted promotional postings, daily study tips and weekly boardwalk themed contests.

“Destress Fest offers students the opportunity to unwind and relax prior to finals each semester,” says Dr. Corlisse Thomas, vice chancellor of student affairs. “Given the pressures that students face in general, and particularly now given the pandemic, it is important for students to take care of their mental, physical, and emotional health.”

Some Virtual Destress Fest physical activities include exercises such as kickboxing, taekwondo, guided meditation, Zumba, and more. During Destress Fest, fitness instructor Sheri Newton teaches cardio high intensity interval training along with glute and abdominal exercises on Instagram Live. Newton says that the present environment warrants an outlet for students to relieve stress, even if it is only for a few minutes.

“Exercise has been proven to provide a mood booster and helps you feel happier, which can ease the effects of depression,” said Newton. “Regular exercise gives you energy and increases your overall stamina, and of course it manages weight control.”

One of the events on Friday, May 1, called “Health & Wellness COVID-19 FAQs,” gave students the opportunity to learn more about the coronavirus and how to cope during the pandemic. The event was hosted by Tanisha Masawi and Abieyuwa Osayande, members of the Health Promotion Division’s UNITY Theater. The three guest panelists included Lida Pascual, a substance abuse specialist at Rutgers-Newark’s Counseling Center; Dr. Luis DeJesus, a physician at RU-N Health Services; and Gary Santos Mendoza, director of RU-N’s Intercultural Resource Center. One important question that arose during the panel discussion focused on how students can stay motivated during this time of crisis and for the remainder of the semester.

“It is normal to experience an increased level of stress and anxiety given what is happening during this situation,” said Pascual. “So, a big part of working through that is really to take the time out to acknowledge how we are feeling and dedicating certain times for ourselves for self-care.”

Pascual also pointed out there are a variety of ways that students can practice self-care, which includes exercise, getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, and practicing mindfulness.

“One of the things that we can do is to try and stay mindful of the present moment and what we do have control of,” says Pascual. “Especially when it comes to having difficulty with motivation, really making sure that we are dedicating time for these things and having that routine in place, being creative with the ways that we’re coping, and making sure that we are staying connected to those important to us.”

As the semester comes to a close, DeJesus reminds students to keep themselves protected and stay safe.

“Everyone should wear a regular face covering or face mask when in public, when you cannot keep a proper social distance,” said DeJesus.

The Health Promotion Division, Health Services, the Intercultural Resource Center, the Rutgers-Newark Counseling Center, and the Bias Education Response Team co-sponsored “Health & Wellness COVID-19 FAQs.”

To learn more about the Virtual Destress Fest events, click here.