YSU offers a light at the end of the tunnel

By McCartney Walsh

Youngstown State University offers a bright way for students to biochemically improve their lifestyle through biofeedback and light therapy.  

Biofeedback and light therapy are new to campus, brought in due to their availability to students off campus, said the director of Student Counseling Services, Ann Jaronski.

“When we received some COVID-CARES money for mental health, we started looking at ways we could assist students beyond face-to-face therapy,” Jaronski said. 

COVID-CARES is a $2.2 trillion act passed in 2020 to be used toward stimulus and other resources to aid people negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“This was during the early part of the pandemic, when people were very isolated and basically staying in their rooms alone for extended periods of time,” Jaronski said. 

She sought to target anxiety and seasonal affective disorder, which is how the conclusion was made to bring biofeedback and light therapy to campus.

Biofeedback and light therapy are separate entities but work toward the same goal of improving health and mindset by using technology that links the body and mind to decrease things such as seasonal depression and anxiety.

According to the YSU website, “Individuals become aware of how their minds and bodies work together in response to stress and anxiety. … The time between heartbeats generally follows a sinusoidal cycle. … Our respiration pattern also follows a similar cycle. You can learn to align your respiration cycle with that of your heart beat cycle. This state of matching cycles is associated with a relaxed nervous system and many health benefits.”

Both devices offer students a way to step out of the traditional methods of improving mental health, Jaronski said.

“Some people may be more open to using technologies to address their concerns than traditional Western medicine options,” Jaronski said. “These tools also allow for a more self-directed and self-paced approach that will appeal to some.”

In the dreary winter months, students — such as YSU senior finance major Trang Nguyen, who tried the light box — are looking for ways to combat the negative feelings that come along with the cold months.

“I was born and raised in Vietnam, which is a tropical country — there’s always sun there,” Nguyen said. “I was feeling a bit depressed and unhealthy, so I thought it could be the lack of sun.” 

However, she said she didn’t obtain the ideal results. 

“I used the light therapy once every few days,” Nguyen said. “I don’t really feel much of a result.”

Although it didn’t work for her, Nguyen said she doesn’t want to discourage others, and she hopes others will obtain different results from trying out the available devices.

“Maybe someone else will benefit from it,” Nguyen said. 

The devices are free for students and can be checked out on the Campus Rec equipment checkout webpage. The light boxes can be checked out for a month at a time while the biofeedback can be checked out for two weeks. Either time can be extended upon request. 

The set-up instructions for both devices can be found on the Rec Center’s website.