Zoe Grooms, a third-year student at the University of South Carolina, concentrates during a free yoga and meditation class on Wednesday. The class served to help students improve their awareness and mental health.

Zoe Grooms, a junior at the University of South Carolina wakes up early on Wednesday to join a meditation class on campus to honor mental health and body awareness.

“Really just learning to be in touch with yourself and be in touch with oneself is important whether its five minutes a day or something you take part in every single day,” Grooms said.

Anxiety is the top presenting distress among all college students. According to the American Psychological Association, more than 40 percent of college students suffer from anxiety followed by about 36 percent suffering from depression.

Many universities around the country have started to incorporate stress relieving activities that students can join. The University of Miami is among a few that offers 90-minute free meditation sessions for students once each month. The university chose to offer this program for students to develop mental clarity while allowing them to also gain internal peace.

On Wednesday, the University of South Carolina held a yoga and meditation session for students to de-stress.

Katie Cohen, a student and secretary for health and wellness for student government was one who made this happen. Cohen and other members of USC health and wellness wanted to emphasis body positivity and anxiety relief through a “bend and bar” class.

“Appreciating your body through a movement and appreciating what it can do is very important,” Cohen said. “We will be focusing on mindfulness, like remembering to breathe and paying attention to the way you feel. We think those kinds of concepts can really help with mental health.”

A recent study by the Michigan Technological University found that one hour of mediation can relieve anxiety and mend cardiovascular health. According to a student-based study, researchers found that participants had lowered heart rates and reported that their anxiety levels were still low a week later.

Hannah Bratcher, a yoga instructor, chose to teach the session at the University of South Carolina on Wednesday because she thinks mental and body mindfulness should be a priority, especially among students.

“I personally have anxiety so if I go days without yoga, I don’t feel relieved.” Bratcher said. “Especially juggling things like tests and homework, you need to take at least 15 minutes a day even if you’re just sitting in your dorm to stretch.”

The University of South Carolina offers students a wide variety of options where they can unwind and distress. Along with meditation gatherings, students are offered 10 free counseling sessions as well as stress management and suicide prevention relief.

More more information on how to relieve mental health on campus, visit sc.edu/studenthealth

Photos by T. Michael Boddie

To advocate for mental health awareness on the University of South Carolina’s campus, a “mental health matters” sign was erected by a Student Government on a field that students would use for a yoga and meditation session.

USC students, like student body vice president Mills Hayes (left) and secretary for health and wellness Katie Cohen (right), took a free yoga course Wednesday to de-stress. Anxiety is the top presenting distress among all college students.

Beyond a free yoga and meditation session to improve mindfulness and physical well-being, Student Government at USC reaches out to students with printed information on mental health, like the fliers shown here.

Instructor Hannah Bratcher leads a free yoga and meditation session with students at the University of South Carolina on Wednesday. Bratcher says she lives with anxiety which can get noticeably worse if she goes days without yoga.