There’s a room at Weber State University that plays soothing music, is dimly lit and has massage chairs. And it’s free.

WSU’s Stress Relief Center is a resource available to all students, faculty and staff to help them unwind and take a break from their day-to-day routines. During the fall and spring semesters, the center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

No appointments are needed; visitors can just walk in. The Stress Relief Center is located on the second floor of the Swenson Gym building.

Mike Olpin, director of the health promotion program as well as the Stress Relief Center at WSU, said the two factors to consider in stress management are prevention and reduction, and that he recommends the former when possible. He said the only way to prevent stress is to think differently.

“Everyone thinks stress just happens,” Olpin said. “And if that were the case, if stress just happened, then everybody who encounters a bear, a snake or a spider, or a high place, would feel the same stress, but that’s not the case. Some people love being around spiders and snakes and high places, and that tells me that it’s never the event that turns on the stress; it’s how we interpret the event.”

Stress reduction methods include meditation, yoga, relaxation exercises, massages, aerobic exercises and talking problems out. Symptoms of stress might include headaches, muscle pain, irritability and difficulty sleeping.

Taylor Adams, an intern at the Stress Relief Center this year, manages the center. She is studying health promotion and plans to graduate after this semester.

“Obviously, in college, everyone has stress, and a lot of people don’t know how to deal with it,” Adams said. “This is a great opportunity to come to just relax and also learn how to deal with your stress.”

Tools available at the Stress Relief Center include massage chairs, chi machines, inversion tables, guided meditation on iPods and a library. A full-spectrum light that can help with seasonal depression is also available. The center also has a Biofeedback Machine, which can help people recognize and control their stress responses.

Olpin said one of the best ways to reduce stress can be done by anybody at any time.

“One of the most powerful things that a person can do — singularly one of the most powerful things a person can do, and they can do this wherever they are — is keep their attention on where they are,” he said.

Olpin said people get stressed when they think about what might happen, as opposed to what is actually happening in the moment.

Dianna Abel, director of the Counseling and Psychological Services Center at WSU, said focusing on the moment isn’t a skill learned instantly.

“It’s not something that’s easy for people,” she said. “It seems really simple, but it’s really not. And it takes practice.”

WSU’s CPSC offers one-on-one counseling, group therapy, a coping skills group and a meditation-relaxation group, among other resources. The Meditation-Relaxation Group is a drop-in group that doesn’t require registration.

Abel said she encourages students interested in individual counseling to get in early, before the waiting list grows. She also said one of the common issues at WSU is juggling multiple roles. Many students are working and going to school along with handling family relations, whether they’re married, have children or are living with their parents.

“A lot of what we work on is self-care — helping students realize that you can continue to do 12 things at 40 percent effectiveness, or you could really whittle it down to . . . the three or four roles that are most important to you, and do your very best at them.”

With the various tools available at WSU, students can customize their experiences to meet their needs. Some tools take less than three minutes, while others can be used for more than an hour.

Olpin said there is a “profound improvement” in schooling when students reduce their stress. He suggested reducing stress before taking exams.

“The thing that we know about the stress response is when you’re stressed, and really stressed, higher-order thinking checks out.”

Olpin said he doesn’t think people adequately understand the difference being stressed or relaxed makes in their lives.

“It’s not a small deal. In my opinion, in studying this for 20 years, it’s not a small deal.”

More information is available at www.weber.edu/studentwellness.

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