Baruch students learn to ‘let go’ at health and wellness workshop

Maya Demchak-Gottlieb, Editor-In-Chief

The Baruch College Office of Health and Wellness and communications professor Heather Schultz Gittens hosted an interactive mindfulness, anxiety-reduction and communication workshop on March 16.

Students learned strategies to combat their fear of public speaking and had the opportunity to practice implementing them during the event.

“I’m trying to get you to be comfortable coming up here because all of you will be tasked when you’re here and in your future jobs to come up and give a presentation in front of your supervisor, the higher-ups and your peers,” Schultz Gittens explained. “The time to get comfortable with that is now.”

Schultz Gittens focused the event on student experiences.

At the start of the workshop, students shared different outlets they use for “self-healing,” which ranged from going on walks to listening to music to even eating a cupcake.

Schultz Gittens then guided students through a mindfulness exercise.

“I want you to try your best to focus and not think about anything else or on what happened yesterday,” she said. “Be present in this moment.”

She told students that she implements mindfulness exercises when she encounters stress while performing daily tasks, such as riding the subway or rushing to work.

“When I feel scattered or off balance, I’ll ground myself,” she said. “It’s important to take care of yourself. As you can see, that didn’t take that much of your time. Yes, it may be difficult at first because thoughts are racing in your mind, but it becomes easier the more often you do it.”

Schultz Gittens said that giving yourself time for stillness and reflection enables self-discovery.

“The moments we take the time to get in tune with ourselves is where we really discover who we are, not what people want us to be, but who we truly are meant to be,” she affirmed.

Schultz Gittens said the same steps to “cultivating calmness” in daily life are essential to managing public speaking anxiety.

She asked students to raise their hands if they experience nervousness when they speak in public. She paused to allow students to look around at the sea of hands.

“Look, you’re not alone,” Schultz Gittens said. “And this is very, very normal.”

She said the key to managing natural nervousness is accepting the “butterflies” in your stomach and then transforming negative, self-doubting thoughts into positive ones.

Students did an exercise where they wrote down the concerns they have about public speaking and then worked to rephrase them. Schultz Gittens gave the example of removing the “not” in the phrase “I am not enough.”

“We are so judgmental of ourselves and so self-critical,” she said. “We need to give ourselves a break.”

Students also participated in a “4-7-8” breathing exercise and writing exercise.

Schultz Gittens asked students to consider when they hold back from speaking their truth and why it is important to them that their voice is heard.

“Sometimes we are afraid to really open up to people in our lives because we don’t want to hurt their feelings,” she said. “But by doing that, we’re suppressing our own and we’re holding back our own voice and that’s not good for ourselves.”

Students then engaged in a chakra meditation that focused on the throat chakra, the chakra associated with communication and self-expression. Schultz Gittens also performed reiki, a Japanese energy-healing practice.

“I truly believe in making sure that we’re taking care of all of ourselves — our physical body, our mind, our mental body, our emotional body, and our spiritual body,” she said. “If we don’t take the time to process feelings and emotions, they can manifest in physical ailments.”

The event concluded with an elevator pitch activity.

Schultz Gittens broke the elevator pitch down into four sections.

She told students to start by introducing themselves by saying what they do and how they do it, then share interesting details about themselves and provide examples of past achievements and end with a call to action.

Students practiced giving the 30-second pitch to those at their table and then got up and practiced with students they did not know.

“Advocate for yourself and don’t be afraid to tell other people everything that you bring to the table,” Schultz Gittens told students. “Be proud of yourself. That’s not bragging about yourself at all, that’s owning who you are.”

The Office of Health and Wellness offers a variety of services to assist students’ physical and mental well-being. It can be found on Instagram and Facebook under @baruchpaws, where it updates students regularly about events and services it is hosting.