UAE universities host wellness days, diverse activities to reduce stress for students

They gather every week to get involved in activities like painting, candle-making, and meditation

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Nandini Sircar

Published: Tue 4 Jul 2023, 3:23 PM

Last updated: Wed 5 Jul 2023, 6:11 PM

Universities in the UAE are actively fostering a culture of positivity on their campuses by organising diverse weekly activities. They have even allocated designated wellness days as they prepare for the upcoming academic year.

One such initiative is ‘The Wellness Wednesdays’ at Canadian University Dubai, which brings together students from different fields to promote mental health awareness, offer opportunities for personal skill development, and facilitate new connections among participants.

Explaining the initiative, President of the CUD Wellness Society, and psychology student Vaishnavi Varma said, “We know that well-being can impact academic performance, so we wanted to do something to provide [a] time-out for students to focus on themselves and to connect with one another. Wellness Wednesdays provides the opportunity for students to meet in a relaxed environment where they can socialise, collaborate, de-stress, and also support one another.”

Students gather every week to get involved in activities like painting, candle-making, and meditation. There are physical activities they can experience as well.

The programme works in partnership with other university societies to stage dedicated events around occasions, such as Sports Week and Mental Health Awareness Month, while collaborating with local businesses to help students connect with the community.

Maryam Farahmand, Student Life Officer at CUD, says, “We know how important it is to dedicate time to well-being and relaxation, and the Wellness Society took the initiative to establish a weekly programme that encourages and enables students to schedule this as a regular commitment. The fact that this is a student-led activity means we have seen a high level of engagement and excellent feedback on the positive impact this has for participants.”

A regular at Wellness Wednesdays is student Yasmeen Khadri, who says, “The events are great to join because they provide me with a dedicated time for self-care and help to promote my overall well-being. I love to enjoy simple activities like painting and jewellery making, which help to reduce my stress and foster my personal growth. It's a valuable opportunity for me to prioritize my wellness, connect with a supportive community, and engage in activities that bring me joy and relaxation.”

Similarly, numerous other universities provide an array of inclusive activities and support services, allowing students to actively participate and benefit from campus life while receiving well-being assistance and forming new friendships.

“These include weekly events and competitions ran by our sports teams and social clubs throughout the academic year, the mdxMindset Talks monthly wellness workshop series that was launched by our Wellness Office this academic year on World Mental Health Day, and the extensive range of support offered by departments like our Centre for Academic Success,” says Professor Tenia Kyriazi, Deputy Director Academic Operations, Middlesex University Dubai.

“mdxMindset Talks was one of this academic year’s landmark initiatives from the Wellness Office, bringing students, staff, industry professionals and community members together for open, safe conversations around mental health.”

Podcast series focused on mental health are also being initiated by a few universities. ”In the upcoming academic year, the Wellness Office will be growing its offering with the launch of the mdxMindset Podcast, a podcast series aiming to raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing topics, lessen stigma and encourage open conversations and help-seeking,” she adds.

Universities also highlight initiatives like the Sudoku club that play a vital role in fostering positivity and wellness among students.

Varsity clubs are also organizing events with cash prizes that act as a motivating factor, encouraging students to actively participate and strive for excellence in these wellness efforts.

Burcu Aydin, Director of Student Affairs, Gulf Medical University says, “By providing a dedicated space for students to engage in this game, procuring Sudoku books and making them available in the common rooms for practice and leisure activities, the club has not only encouraged intellectual stimulation but also created a vibrant community of like-minded individuals.

She explains the health benefits of Sudoku go beyond entertainment. “As scientific studies have shown it has a positive effect on reducing blood pressure, anxiety, and overthinking. By participating in this mind-challenging game, our students are not only enhancing their cognitive abilities but also improving their focus and thinking speed, which are crucial skills for aspiring medical professionals,” Aydin adds.

Varsities also have full-time counsellors on campus who are available on weekends as well. Prof Srinivasan Madapusi, Director of BITS Pilani Dubai Campus said, “We also have a nurse available 24x7 on campus. We hold events on campus to recognise men’s health and mental issues through ‘Movember’, and our celebration of Women’s Day includes engagement with medical professionals as well. Each student is assigned a faculty member as an advisor who is the first point of contact; this faculty remains as the advisor throughout the student’s tenure on campus, thereby providing continuity for counsel. In addition, the Students’ Welfare Division together with the Wardens provide excellent pastoral care for the students."


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