Dr. Paul Granelo demonstrates the biofeedback process by connecting an ear piece to himself and monitoring his heart rate and breathing on the computer. Credit: Summer Cartwright | Senior Lantern Reporter

A new addition to campus is aiming to help Ohio State students get S.M.A.R.T.  It’s not a new course or tutoring center — it’s a lab located in the Student Wellness Center focused on helping students with stress management and resiliency training.

The S.M.A.R.T. lab, which opened in early February, was created by Paul Granello, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Studies. It is home to relaxation, individual and group counseling, as well as biofeedback training.

“There is too much stress on campus, and I think this stress underlies a lot of problems that students have, including everything from sleeping well to substance abuse to potentially  violence and other kinds of problems,” Granello said. “I think that not everybody knows how to do stress management naturally, and so this is an opportunity for the counselor education program at OSU.”

Students who come to the S.M.A.R.T. lab first talk with a counselor on what is causing them stress. The counselors then come up with ideas on how to manage stressors specific to a student’s needs, which could include working with biofeedback software.

This software allows students to observe their heart rates and breathing. An ear clip transmits the information to a computer, which then translates the information into a coherence score — a high score means the user is relaxed, a low score means the user is not.

With this information, facilitators can help students learn breathing techniques through games and videos that will in turn slow down their heart rate, helping reduce stress.

“We can actually teach people how to improve over a few sessions — how to be better at invoking a relaxation and response in their body,” Granello said.

Granello said he also sees the lab as a preventive service for students who are stressed. His involvement with the OSU Suicide Prevention Program inspired him to create the program and method of stress management.

“Just knowing how many phone calls and students they interact with, and everything that goes on with that program, just convinces me that a lot of people could benefit from stress management before things get to the point where they have to go for counseling or over to Counseling Consultation Services,” Granello said.

Maria Lammy, a graduate associate in the S.M.A.R.T. lab and a doctoral student in counselor education said she has seen the positive impact biofeedback has on participants.

“I think what’s really cool about the biofeedback is that (students) can come in and see how stressed they are, or they can see that technique immediately helping, and then over time they can use these new skills that they’re being taught,” Lammy said. “They have that proof to show them that it’s making a difference.”

She said her work in the lab helped her realize how many chemical reactions come from one’s emotional state, and the related effects they can have on one’s physical health.

“If you’re really anxious or you’re frustrated or you’re angry at somebody, the body feels that emotion and responds with certain hormones that can be really hard on your body,” Lammy said. “Then if you’re in a state of gratitude or peaceful or happy, then the body is releasing totally different chemicals that are rejuvenating and can really help you.”

Students can also benefit from the lab during more traumatic events in their life, Lammy said. If occurances like a breakup, a death or mental health issues arise, then knowing the stress management skills taught in the lab could help students get through these problems with resilience, she said.

“I really want students to be empowered,” Lammy said. “To not feel like, ‘Oh, my anxiety is taking over my life,’ or ‘There are so many stressful things. I can’t cope anymore.’ I want students to feel like, ‘Wow. I’m strong enough that I can handle this, and I have tools that will help me. And no matter what I face, there are tools to help me get through that.’”

An open house for the S.M.A.R.T. lab is set to be held on Wednesday and will include tours of the facility as well as a presentation on the basic concepts the lab promotes.