The Health Education Department at Student Health recently began offering UCSB students some stress relieving services normally just reserved for members of upscale spas – all at student-friendly prices.

Last May, Student Health asked Kersi Aulin, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Santa Barbara, for suggestions on ways to help students manage high stress levels associated with the university environment. In response to her input, Aulin developed an on-campus massage program and meditation service for UCSB students in need of a little stress relief.

Aulin said research done at University of Massachusetts found meditation to be an effective stress-reduction practice, and thought UCSB students would benefit from having access to more information about the technique, in addition to opportunities to practice it.

“It helps [students] deal with their situation [in school] better,” Aulin said.

UCSB provided a variety of stress-relieving services as part of a healthy living program until about ten years ago, but the program was eliminated due to budget cuts. Aulin said the reintroduction of such a program shows that the university is taking a proactive role in mitigating the adverse effects of stress experienced by its students.

“The university is recognizing stress is a big deal to students.” Aulin said.

To publicize the new massage program, licensed massage therapist Terri Anton will be conducting short demonstration massages in the UCen on Wednesdays from 12 to 1 p.m. at the cost of $10 for ten minutes on Tuesdays and Fridays. The massage sessions can be charged to any BARC account.

Regular massages offered through the program can be booked online through the Student Health website or at the Student Health facility. Consecutive time slots can also be booked for longer massages.

In addition, Student Health will be offering free meditation courses. According to Aulin, who will be leading the classes, the program is geared toward students hoping to minimize and control stress, sleep and physical problems. Classes are offered Mondays from 3:30 to 4:00 p.m., Tuesdays from 4:15 to 4:45 p.m. and Fridays from 3:30 to 4:00 p.m.

Aulin said the meditation classes are being offered as part of Passport to Wellness, a program designed to help motivate students improve their physical, mental and social life at UCSB.

The program, which is geared toward first-year students, aims to help new UCSB students get involved in university activities. Students who enroll in Passport to Wellness programs – which include meditation classes, rock climbing and yoga – can gain lottery points and win prizes including bookstore gift certificates, free massages, readers, movie rentals and iPods.

Aulin also has plans to improve the stress-reduction programs in the future. She said she would like to have the university further subsidize the cost of massages, while also improving the quality of the services offered.

“I’d love if we could offer [the massages] for free. That would be great.” Aulin said. “[As well as] move from this kind of massage to full body massages.”