UMD Counseling Center hosts Wellness Workshops to support students amid pandemic

The University of Maryland's Counseling Center is located in the Shoemaker Building on South Campus. (Evan Kramer/The Diamondback)

By Trisha Ahmed
For The Diamondback

With the fall semester wrapping up at the University of Maryland, many students are bracing themselves for upcoming final exams.

But due to a mainly virtual semester and the coronavirus pandemic, exam season is filled with more than the usual stressors students encounter during finals, and the school’s Counseling Center has resources to help.

The Counseling Center is offering students virtual, hourlong “Wellness Workshops” four days a week until Thursday, Dec. 17.

Dr. Allison Asarch, a staff psychologist and coordinator of consultation and outreach services at the Counseling Center, helped create the workshops, which were piloted last spring and expanded to take place more frequently this fall, Asarch said.

“We developed this series by [asking], ‘What are the types of experiences that we most often hear students having?’”Asarch said.

Many of the remaining workshops are tailored to help students prepare for their finals, spanning a variety of topics including coping with stress, conquering procrastination and improving focus.

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There have been more than 550 visits to the virtual workshops so far, Asarch said.

“These workshops, they’re available to anybody without necessarily having a Counseling Center appointment first,” Asarch said. “It’s our way of reaching out to the community.”

Four students attended the Dec. 1 workshop on time management, which featured a presentation on time management strategies, activities for participants and opportunities for attendees to ask questions.

Marvyn Arévalo Avalos, who works at the Counseling Center, led the workshop.

“All of you already have some sort of time management system in place,” Arévalo Avalos said. “The question is, how effective are they?”

The workshop began with an exercise where each participant tallied the hours they spend each week on various activities including sleeping, eating, studying, commuting, working and socializing. If the total hours added up to more than the number of hours in a week, then the participant would know that they are over-budgeting their time.

At the end of the workshop, Arévalo Avalos asked participants to apply what they learned by reorganizing their weekly schedule — with final exams and new time management strategies in mind — in a way that added up to 168 hours.

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Abenezer Tadesse, a freshman public health science major, was one of the participants on Tuesday, and said he has attended more than seven of these workshops.

“[It’s] part of something that I’m doing for my wellness,” Tadesse said. “They really help.”

During Tuesday’s workshop, Tadesse said he was reminded about tools he had previously learned but forgotten about — such as specific strategies for goal setting — and now hopes to use those tactics to improve his planning.

Tadesse said he started attending the workshops because the pandemic made it harder for him to focus, affecting his schoolwork.

“My favorite part has been the calm atmosphere,” Tadesse said. “I also like that it’s near the end of the day … so it can be like the last thing I do before I end the day.”

Students can attend the virtual workshops by registering on the Counseling Center’s website. Students can also watch selected recordings of previously held workshops on the website, dealing with topics such as coping with COVID-19 and managing stress and emotions.

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