Luna Martin’s days can be long and stressful. When the junior pre-nursing major isn’t in class or studying, she works at the Wildcat Recreation Center’s front desk.

So when she needs to relax, de-stress, and disconnect to regain balance, Martin visits The Well, the new 8,500-square-foot, student-only space in the Bell Memorial Union basement dedicated to promoting self-care and wellness.

“I use it two to three times a week,” said Martin, who also works at The Well’s front desk. “Everything here makes me feel better and more relaxed and grounded—it definitely helps me focus on my schoolwork.”

More and more students are discovering the many health benefits of The Well. Open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., it offers over a dozen features for a broad range of restorative and holistic wellness experiences Wildcats can choose from.

Designed with students and their schedules in mind, most of The Well’s services—from designated quiet spaces, a sensory room, games collection, and creative spaces, and areas to simply sit quietly—are available for drop-in. Some features, however, like the hydromassage lounge, massage chairs, and nap pods, require reservations. Additionally, The Well’s Lactation Lounge is its only space available for use by both University students and employees, providing those who are breastfeeding with a private, comfortable space.

A sensory room with soft blue lights, a table and a beanbag chair
The Well’s sensory room includes lights and sounds of nature where students can relax, unplug, and, if they choose, close their eyes.

Program Coordinator Christina Hammans (Social Science, ’11; MA, Social Science, ’22) said multiple student focus groups have revealed Wildcats were interested in services that promote self-directed self-care.

“Associated Students took the information received during the focus groups and subsequent meetings with the Associated Students Facilities Committee to develop the initial plans for the wellness center,” she said. “All funds came from student dollars, so we want to make sure that students have a voice in everything that happens in this space.”

With class and work responsibilities impacting students and their lives, Hammans believes there is a significant need for practical and accessible on-campus wellness resources, especially after the pandemic.

“We have amazing resources on campus such as the WellCat Health Center and WellCat Counseling, but students requested something else,” she said. “The Well offers alternatives for individuals who are not seeking only counseling or students that require medical intervention, but instead are seeking a tranquil space to just reset.”

Two college students sit at a long table working on puzzles.
Puzzles inside The Well’s creative space are an excellent way to take a break from the rigors of school while still flexing the mind.

The Well also includes a designated reflection, prayer, and meditation space—something that fourth-year business management major Mason Leggitt is grateful for.

“As a Christian, finding a private spot to pray and read the Bible is very important to me,” he said. “Mental and spiritual health are hugely important and often overlooked amongst college students, so I definitely think more students should use The Well to achieve those.”

Hammans noted The Well has added popular programmatic elements—from weekly massage therapy and twice-a-week yoga and guided meditation three times a week to pop-up food pantries every other week. And Mellow Sessions is a live music concert series at The Well, with the goal of healing through music.

One of the most popular programs, however, is “Take a PAWS” with Dr. Venice.

“Dr. Venice is a therapy-trained golden retriever, and for two hours students can get their loves from Venice, give Venice treats, and play with toys,” Hammans said. “It’s been a huge, impactful programming piece for us—it’s brought a lot of new students to The Well.”

Nap pods line opposite walls in a darkened room
According to Hammans, the nap pods are some of The Well’s most sought-after services—students wishing to take a quick, regenerative snooze must register.

Whether it’s a short, restorative nap or a relaxing session in the massage chair as a break from her pre-nursing classes and work schedule, Martin has lived the benefits herself—and recommends students take advantage of these free services.

“If you just want to get away from homework and get away from stress, or teachers, or professors and deadlines, come here even for a quick 10 minutes and sit down on one the lounge chairs,” she said.

Hammans said the team at the Well is ready to meet students’ mental and physical wellness needs, particularly as the University continues to emerge out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know there has been a significant increase in depression, anxiety, and suicide rates among college students nationwide post-pandemic and hope The Well aids in lowering rates for Wildcats by providing additional on-campus resources that they can utilize to get to graduation, both healthy and happy,” Hammans said.